Minister Rules Out Public Inquiry Into School Bullying

Tuesday 10th August 2004

By Elinor Glynn - Newsletter  -

A public inquiry into school bullying would be "unhelpful" in solving the problem, according to the NIO.

Despite political pressure for such a process, Education Minister Barry Gardiner has decided that the first step will be to stamp out bullying on school buses.

He said that this will not be a quick-fix solution, with action only at the planning stage and implementation months down the line, long after the start of the new school term.

In correspondence with MLA Ian Paisley Jnr, Mr Gardiner said that research commissioned by his department and published in 2002 had highlighted school bus journeys as particular areas for concern.

He said that his department had enlisted the help of the Anti-Bullying Consortium which, together with Translink and the PSNI, was preparing to pilot a comprehensive programme to tackle bullying on buses.

"Such a programme might include posters on buses, a helpline, parallel anti-bullying work in schools and bus patrols of parents or senior pupils.

"This represents a considerable programme of work and it will be some months before there will be an outcome suitable for publication."

The decision not to launch a public inquiry into school bullying has been responded to with "disgust" by Mr Paisley

He issued the request to the Secretary of State some months ago, following the tragic death of Broughshane boy Aran Armstrong - a pupil at Cambridge House in Ballymena.

His appeal underlined that a public inquiry could identify preventative measures to effectively tackle bullying - a considerable contributor to suicides amongst the young.

"The Minister's letter details his concern that bullying is a massive problem and that no school is 'immune," he said.

"I say all the more reason for a public inquiry into the seriousness of the matter and the deficiency of the current laws preventing it," said the DUP MLA.

e.glynn@newsletter.co.uk