Minister launches anti-bullying week

Illustrated rainbow pride flag on a pink background.

The Secretary of State for Children, Schools and Families Ed Balls launched Anti-Bullying Week 2007 yesterday at the Victoria Apollo Theatre, home of WICKED the musical.

Anti-Bullying Week 2007, from 19th to 23rd November, is run by the Anti-Bullying Alliance, who this year are focusing on ‘bullying in the community’ with the message ‘safer together, safer wherever,’ to remind us that we all have a role to play in keeping children and young people safe wherever they are.

The ABA is organisation of 67 members from the voluntary, public and private sectors, who work together to reduce bullying and create safer environments in which children and young people can live, grow, play and learn.

Funded by the Department for Children, Schools and Families, gay equality organisation Stonewall and LGBT education group Schools Out are members of the alliance.

Research published by Stonewall earlier this year revealed that nearly two thirds of LGB students reported instances of homopbobic harassment.

That figure jumps to 75% of young gay people attending faith schools.

The survey of more than 1,100 young people found that only 23% of all UK schools explicitly condemn homophobic bullying.

92% of gay, lesbian and bisexual pupils have experienced verbal abuse, 41% physical bullying and 17% have been subject to death threats.

At yesterday’s launch Mr Balls emphasised how society has changed with regard to bullying.

“There’s been a revolution, because today we all know that bullying isn’t something that you can sweep under the carpet. It has got to be addressed by all of us together.”

The Secretary of State also said that it was young people themselves who are the most powerful advocates of anti-bullying.

He described how members of Young Anti-Bullying Alliance told him and the Prime Minister at a special meeting yesterday afternoon at Downing Street how important it was for young people to be supported in supporting one another.

He pledged £3 million for peer mentoring programmes in schools over the next two years.

The Anti-Bullying Alliance has released the results of its annual poll of children and young people to mark the start of Anti-Bullying Week 2007.

35% of a sample of 7 to18 year olds say that they have been bullied outside of school.

The survey carried out by BMRB for the ABA with 1,078 7-18 year olds in England, found that the most likely places for children and young people to experience bullying outside school were on the street (16%), on the way to and from school, and in the park (12%).

The majority also (55%) thought that about half or more of the bullying that happens in school actually starts outside of school and 4 in 10 said bullying outside of school was more worrying as adults weren’t around to help.

However, more than half reported that they would tell an adult in school if they were bullied outside of school.

Chris Cloke, ABA Chair, said: “We must think carefully about what children and young people are telling us.

“Clearly, whilst we welcome the finding that a significant majority felt safe when they were out in their communities, more than a third had experienced bullying – this is simply unacceptable.

“Young people also draw a critical link here between bullying in school and bullying that starts out in the community or which may be exacerbated by community conflicts or local feuds. We need to support our schools in responding to this challenge, which is a significant one.”

In September the Department for Children, Families and Schools has issued guidance to schools in England and Wales on how to tackle homophobic bullying.