Move to put brakes on scourge of bullying

By Claire Regan

15 March 2005


A pilot initiative aimed at tackling the scourge of bullying on school buses has been launched in Ballymena in response to the suicide of a young boy last year.

The Department of Education has teamed up with Translink, the North Eastern Education and Library Board (NEELB) and a number of other bodies to launch an anti-bullying poster and pupil advice card campaign.

The move forms an integral part of the ongoing Safe Transport Pilot Initiative in the Ballymena area which was established after the death of 12-year-old schoolboy Aaron Armstrong.

The Broughshane pupil, took his own life last May after what his family believe was constant bullying, much of which they say took place on the school bus he travelled to and from Cambridge House Grammar in Ballymena.

The poster, which includes ChildLine's telephone number, will be displayed in schools, buses, bus stations and public places throughout the NEELB area. The pupil advice card will be distributed to all pupils in the board area.

Speaking recently at the project's launch, the department's assistant chief inspector, Loretto Watson, highlighted the importance of tackling the issue.

"We have seen the tragedies that can result from bullying," she said.

"A tragic event last May was the impetus for the safe transport anti-bullying initiative being piloted in Ballymena.

"That incident, which saddened us all deeply, strengthened both the Department of Education's determination and that of many others to consider what other practical and co-ordinated steps could be taken to address the problem of bullying en route to and from school."

Ms Watson added that when a formal evaluation of the Safe Transport Pilot Initiative has been undertaken, consideration will be given as to how the valuable lessons learned might be rolled out across Northern Ireland.

Billy Telford, northern area manager with Translink, said the company is delighted to be associated with the scheme.

"We believe that this inter-agency approach will deliver initiatives which will become the best practice model to eradicate bullying in schools," he added.