Harassment and bullying in schools – Welsh Government assessment
There have been legal or policy changes to improve human rights protections but very limited evidence of sustained improvements in the enjoyment of human rights on this issue
The Welsh Government has legislated to make relationships and sexuality education a statutory component of the new curriculum – ensuring that schools tackle bullying and harassment in all its forms – and has produced statutory guidance to support anti-bullying. However, schools still do not have a duty to collect evidence on incidents of bullying. This lack of data, and the Welsh Government’s own lack of indicators to measure improvements in levels of bullying, make it difficult to assess the extent of progress. The number of learners who regularly experience bullying and harassment is high, with those sharing certain protected characteristics at particular risk.
- The new curriculum for Wales includes a mandatory requirement for all schools to teach relationships and sexuality education (RSE), with the aim of supporting learners to recognise healthy, safe relationships and to develop respect for differences between people. Draft RSE guidance requires that schools address bullying and harassment in all forms. The Welsh Government is consulting on the curriculum for RSE and final guidance is expected in December 2021.
- The Welsh Government’s 2019 statutory guidance for schools on bullying outlines different forms of prejudice-related bullying, and highlights prevention strategies. However, the Welsh Government has also committed to strengthening the guidance by July 2022 with a focus on disciplinary procedures for handling identity-based bullying in schools.
- There is no mandatory reporting of bullying and harassment experienced by children, and official data is often inadequate, making it difficult to monitor the prevalence of bullying and harassment. The Children’s Commissioner for Wales called for the Welsh Government to introduce a statutory duty on schools to record all incidents and types of bullying. The Welsh Government’s race equality action plan includes a commitment to strengthen data collection on racist bullying and harassment in schools.
- The Welsh Government’s strategic equality plan includes an objective to tackle bullying, but no indicators or monitoring and evaluation of actions to demonstrate this objective has been met.
- Schools in Wales are under a legal duty to uphold the fundamental right of children to be free from abuse and must therefore tackle bullying in all its forms. However, few schools in Wales have identified the reduction of prejudice-based bullying as one of their equality objectives.
- The most recent Welsh Government child wellbeing report (2017–18) showed that 35% of secondary school pupils had been bullied in the previous two months, 9% had been bullied at least once a week, and 19% had experienced online bullying. A higher percentage of girls than boys reported experiencing bullying.
- Research shows that learners who share certain protected characteristics experience disproportionate rates of bullying.
- One study found that 45% of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) young people in Wales had experienced identity-based bullying at school, with 73% of trans respondents reporting being bullied. The Welsh Government’s LGBTQ+ action plan identifies the need for trans guidance for schools.
- Another study found that racism is widespread across the school system, with 63% of respondents reporting that they, or someone they know, had been a target of racism at school. The study also reported that the prevalence of racism is underestimated by staff.
- Only around half of schools’ anti-bullying and equality policies take account of the particular needs of Gypsy, Roma and Traveller pupils.
Read more about the UK and Welsh Governments’ actions on harassment and bullying in schools.