In Depth

Why England’s schools are among worst in world for bullying

International survey shows level of abuse faced by pupils has doubled in five years

England is one of the worst countries for bullying among secondary school pupils, according to a global survey of teachers.

The Paris-based Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) surveyed more than 250,000 teachers in 48 industrialised territories, and found that the frequency of bullying in schools has dropped in a number of nations since 2013.

However, in England it has almost doubled, reports TES (formerly the Times Educational Supplement).

Almost three in ten head teachers at English secondary schools said bullying occurred at least weekly among students, compared with an average rate of 14% among the countries surveyed. That puts England fourth from the top for general abuse among pupils - and the figures are even worse when it comes to online bullying.

Why is bullying on the rise?

Andreas Schleicher, the OECD’s director of education and skills, suggests that much of the problem stems from England’s slow response in tackling the growing global problem of cyberbullying.

“Cyberbullying in terms of unwanted contact or students being exposed on the internet is the dark side of the modern age,” he said.

“But it is something that schools really need to get to grips with. I don’t think English schools and the schools system have the policy yet for this.”

The OECD survey found that 13.9% of English head teachers have received reports of “hurtful” posts about pupils, compared with an OECD average of 2%, while 27% faced problems caused by pupils receiving “unwanted contact”  online, reports the BBC.

What can be done?

Schleicher is calling for a clearer national policy on cyberbullying in England, and points out that a number of other countries have introduced measures to control the issue. In France, mobile phones have been banned in schools since last September, according to The Daily Telegraph.

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the UK’s Association of School and College Leaders, is urging the Government to invest more in support for vulnerable families in order to tackle cyberbullying, The Independent reports. In addition, social media companies such as Facebook “must take more action” to police and prevent the trend, Barton says.

What did the OECD say about teacher shortages?

The think tank’s new survey also found that England has as significant shortage of teachers, the BBC notes. Indeed, the OECD’s Schleicher said the number of heads reporting low staffing levels was “way above” other developed countries.

Teachers in England also face higher levels of intimidation from pupils than in many developed countries. The British nation placed 13th out of 48 bullying of teachers.

England’s teachers work among the longest hours of those in any developed nation, too. Responding to the findings, Education Secretary Damian Hinds said he was “battling” to reduce the workloads of school staff.

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