Party Leader Steven Agnew

All children must be protected from bullying in schools

Green Party leader Steven Agnew MLA today, Thursday, 08 October 2015, welcomed that anti-bullying legislation is to be brought to the Assembly.

“I am delighted that tackling bullying in school is a priority for the Department Of Education.

“This will make a difference for many thousands of children, ensuring that the cause of bullying is challenged and action taken to stop it from happening.

“From working with the Green Party’s Queer Greens group, I know bullying is a significant factor in mental ill health and suicide in the LGBTQ community.

“There are still schools teaching that same sex attraction is wrong. This aspect must be covered in any forthcoming legislation to ensure that children are fully protected from both mental and physical bullying brought about by this type of teaching.

“This legislation has been a long time in coming and I hope that the Minister does not delay any further in bringing it forward.

“Children and young people should not have to wait longer than necessary for anti-bullying legislation.”

ENDS

Steven Agnew MLA tabled the following question:

Tabled Date: 30/09/2015
Answered On Date: 05/10/2015
Priority Written: No

Question:
To ask the Minister of Education (i) when he intends on bringing the Bullying Bill before the Assembly; and (ii) whether he is considering accelerated passage for the Bill.

Answer:

My officials have been working closely with the Office of Legislative Counsel (OLC) to prepare the Addressing Bullying in Schools Bill. Our aim has been to ensure the legislation is legally robust, easy for pupils, parents and schools to understand and as straightforward to implement as possible.

I agreed the final wording of the Bill on 29 September. The legislation will:

Provide a common definition of bullying;

Require all schools to centrally record incidents of bullying, their motivation and their outcome; and

Require Boards of Governors to play an active role in the preparation and implementation of anti-bullying policies and measures within their school.

I have now received confirmation of legislative competence from the Departmental Solicitors Office and the Office of the Attorney General and have circulated a paper seeking Executive consent for its introduction to the Assembly.

If this can be secured in a timely manner, it should not be necessary to seek accelerated passage; and my preference would be for the Education Committee to have the time it needs to scrutinise this important Bill.

This Bill is, however, a priority for my Department and I will consider any steps, including accelerated passage, to ensure it passes into law before the end of the current Assembly mandate.

The proposed definition of Bullying contained in the Bill does not differentiate between forms of bullying. My Department’s position remains that no form of bullying is acceptable in our schools. We do recognise, however, that certain groups of pupils, such as those coming from the LGBT and Irish Travelling communities may be more likely to experience bullying.

In requiring schools to record the motivation of each bullying incident, the Bill provides a non-exhaustive list of possible motivating factors which schools are required to consider. This includes all of the criteria recognised under Section 75 of the Northern Ireland Act 1998.

Understanding the frequency and common motivations for bullying within their school will strengthen each Board of Governors’ ability to ensure effective measures are in place to protect all of their pupils.

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