Bullying: turning the curve at last?

For over 15 years, we have been asking secondary pupils across the country the same question: Do you ever feel afraid of going to school because of bullying?  The pupils are offered four responses, Very often, Often, Sometimes and Never.  The proportion saying anything other than 'Never' veries between 20% (Year 10 males) to over 30% (Year 8 females).  And it's been that way for a long while.

I have struggled to understand for a while why our bullying figures are so flat. For the last decade and more, schools have made more and better efforts to address bullying, and the list of initiatives and strategies we have seen is long (see, for example, http://www.antibullyingweek.co.uk/ ).  Yet for all these efforts, the figures on young people's feelings about safety at school have been stubbornly stable, neither going down nor up.

That's actually the least expected result.  We would obviously like to see a fall in young people's fears of bullying at school, although we could also imagine that figures might go up, as young people become more aware of it, and/or more inclusive about what they think of as being 'bullying'.

However, our most recent set of charts shows some evidence of change, at last, and the change is in a very desirable direction.


We see falls in all four groups, consistent over the last four years or so.  Our usual health warning is, we survey with clients in different parts of the country each year, so it's not really 'national figures', but it's common for a given area to survey every 2 years, and so the bulk of the 2008 sample was made up of the same areas as 2010.  So that's very suggestive.

Of course, if there is only one pupil who is afraid of going to school because of bullying, that is too many. 






Comments about SHEU

"Just to say a huge thank you for all your efforts in helping us with the Health survey amongst pupils. It has provided us with significant data which will be used across the school to help us improve. It helped us to obtain a healthy schools standard as well. I hope we can make this an annual feature as we can track the changing health of our pupils." Headteacher


(Our) Senior team were very enthused with the rich source of data provided within the reports (and thought that the analyses including within the appendices section of the main reports were really interesting).

Health Improvement Specialist (Children, Schools and Families)

Any comments on specific survey questions that may have caused difficulty? No problems. My children were fully briefed before the survey and they understood that they could miss questions if they did not want to answer them. We did not have any children with any concerns regarding the survey at all.

Any comments on the use of the web site? No it was easy to use.

Any general comments on the exercise? The children really enjoyed completing the survey, It has lead to many positive discussions about our health and how we all have slightly different experiences and home lives.

Class teacher

"I very much value the contribution the Health Related Behaviour Survey has made to the public health agenda and feel confident it will continue to do so." Tribute from a Director of Public Health to John Balding, presented at his retirement lunch, May 2005

Director of Public Health

"Thanks for presenting the survey to local schools this morning, I just wanted to thank you for such interesting and thought-provoking information.  
I’m really glad we were able to take part - the information (particularly headline data and differences) will support us to have some really interesting questions with the Year group as a whole about the sense they’re making of this; what they think it might mean in terms of changes they might make, and what they need to support them in this."

Deputy Headteacher

...our analyst here in Public Health- is beside himself with excitement about all the juicy data pouring in...he can't wait to get his hands on it!!!!
He is happier than I have seen him for years.

Public Health Principal

"...the most comprehensive health education survey."

Daily Telegraph

"The Unit is to be congratulated in preparing ... material of the highest standard and worthy of wide dissemination." National Association for Environmental Education

National Association for Environmental Education

"As a result of the survey we reviewed and amended PSHE schemes of work, we are currently working on a "Green Travel Plan", a morning breakfast club was established and we further developed 6th Form mentoring."

Health Education Coordinator

"The data from last time were spot-on and we have done lots of work with it. We are very keen to repeat the survey." Headteacher