25th August 2021
The INTO notes the recent publication of the Joint Committee on Education, Further and Higher Education, Research, Innovation and Science’s report on School Bullying and the Impact on Mental Health.
The INTO made a written submission on this topic last February and appeared before the Committee in May to give oral evidence.
A number of recommendations were made by the INTO to the Committee and a number of these are included and reflected in the report published earlier this week. Our recommendations, among others, included:
- That an Irish study be undertaken in relation to the topic School Bullying and the Impact on Mental Health with pupils and school staff including teachers;
- A review and updating of the Anti-Bullying Procedures for all schools;
- That leadership and management time, secretarial support, a reduction in paperwork and bureaucracy, the restoration of middle management posts is required for Principal teachers and in particular Teaching Principals;
- All teachers should have access to continuing professional development (CPD) throughout their careers on wellbeing, SPHE, Stay Safe and anti-bullying. In addition, any revised SPHE curriculum should be accompanied by comprehensive guidance and CPD for teachers;
- All pupils should have an opportunity during their primary school years to become involved in programmes that support their wellbeing, with investment in pupil wellbeing;
- That consideration should be given to the provision of an in-school model of mental health support service for those who have experienced bullying;
- That there should be considerable investment in mental health services such as CAMHS.
Notably, a number of the Ten Key Recommendations in the Committees’ report are in keeping with the INTO’s calls outlined above, including:
- A Department of Education (DE) Audit of the Action Plan on Bullying (2013) to ensure that: it continues to be informed by up-to-date research and evidence, including research to ascertain why some schools are encountering challenges in implementing the existing Action Plan; and that the DE publish updated procedures for all schools based on the audit findings, with specific actions to address homophobic, transphobic, disability and racist bullying behaviours.
- The National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) should be reconstituted and expanded urgently as the National Educational Psychological and Counselling Service (NEPCS) and mandated to provide specialist Emotional Counselling and Therapeutic Supports, on site, in all schools.
- The DE should provide a mandatory online Cyber Bullying and Internet Safety Training Programme for all teaching staff.
- The DE should restore middle management positions, primarily Deputy Principals and Year Heads, removed from schools and undertake an assessment of School Leadership posts at Primary level, with a view to aligning the number of leadership posts with equivalent posts at secondary level.
INTO General Secretary John Boyle said:
We welcome the publication of the Joint Committee’s report and we note that a number of the INTO’s recommendations are notably reflected in the report’s key recommendations.
“As detailed in our submission to the committee, the INTO recognises the significant impact that school bullying can have on mental health for both teachers and pupils. We are committed to playing our part in tackling this and we will continue to endeavour to provide as much support and assistance to schools as possible, however tangible support is required from Government to do this effectively and it is welcome that the report acknowledges this.
“In that sense, we are pleased to see the report’s recommendations for an audit by the Department of Education, CPD in the relevant area for all teaching staff, an expansion of mental-health supports and support for school leaders and principal teachers, including the long overdue restoration of middle management posts. Budget 2022 provides the Government with an early opportunity to begin restoring vital middle leadership posts and to fund staff training.”