INTO publishes submission on anti-bullying procedures

The INTO has welcomed the opportunity to make a submission to the Department of Education (DE) on the topic of the Review of the 2013 Action Plan on Bullying and the review of the 2013 Anti-bullying Procedures for Primary and Post-primary Schools. The union has, over the years, been involved in advocating for the promotion of anti-bullying policies and procedures within schools and the wider community, as well as providing support for the compilation of up-to-date anti-bullying policies within schools.

Furthermore, the INTO advocates for and supports schools in the implementation of anti-bullying policies and practices which protect and uphold the safety and inclusion of all members of the school community, to ensure both the safety of pupils and the dignity of all teachers in their workplaces. In this regard, we particularly welcome the revision of the Anti-Bullying Procedures for Primary and Post-Primary Schools, which have been implemented since 2013.

We note the importance of updating current anti-bullying policies and procedures, particularly in the context of other forms of identity-based and cyber- bullying which are prevalent in society and schools in recent years. The importance of providing regular, dedicated access to professional development for teachers, school leaders and boards of management, as well as information evenings for parents should form an integral part of the updating of current anti-bullying procedures. This would greatly assist in ensuring the inclusion and collaboration of all stakeholders in the prevention of bullying in schools and the wider school community.

However, it must be acknowledged that there is currently a considerable challenge posed for school leaders to effectively deal with bullying, due to the already unsustainable workload they face on a daily basis.

The Chief Inspector’s Report 2016– 2021 found that many boards of management were ill-equipped to deal with all their responsibilities, which were being passed on to school leaders. In order to equip schools to effectively manage and implement anti-bullying initiatives, adequate supports for administrating and leading schools must be provided by the Department of Education, including the restoration of middle management teams and enhanced supports for smaller schools.

In our detailed submission, the INTO proposes the following series of recommendations:

  • A clear, child-friendly definition of bullying should be provided in any future policies or procedures in relation to anti-bullying.
  • The remit of a school to investigate and address allegations of bullying should be clearly set out, recognising that bullying can arise in a wide variety of contexts where a number of external bodies may play a role in responding to incidences of bullying. Specifically, guidelines should provide clear examples of incidences of bullying which fall within the remit of the school to investigate which should not include incidences which occur outside of the school environs and/or within the ordinary school day.
  • Financial and concrete supports are required in order to effectively resource schools to manage bullying in schools and embed preventative strategies and initiatives, together with the increased support of external agencies in dealing with instances of bullying such as NEPS, CAHMS, and other external agencies. A specific emphasis should be placed on supports for school leaders, the augmentation of middle management posts and supports for smaller schools.
  • Support for the provision of the education of all stakeholders to ensure that there is a common understanding of both the definition of bullying and a common framework for addressing any incidences of bullying which may arise in the school context.

Click here to read our submission, Review of the 2013 Action Plan on Bullying and the Anti-bullying Procedures for Primary and Post-primary Schools.