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DCU and Insight collaborate to develop tool to combat bullying in schools

Insight's Dr Mark Roantree has teamed up with DCU's National Anti-Bullying Research and Resource Centre to devel to develop an automated inclusivity survey tool for post-primary schools in Ireland. The inclusivity tool will be available online through the National Anti-Bullying Research​ and Resource ​Centre at www.inclusivity.ie

The tool was developed on foot of research conducted by DCU's Dr Debbie Ging who found that students who experienced bullying at school were predominantly taunted about their weight or body image. Furthermore, it found that teenagers, regardless of gender, were reluctant to report incidents of bullying to school staff.

Teachers highlighted that a focus on body aesthetics, particularly in social media was a factor behind students being subjected to hurtful names about their physical appearance. These findings emerged from a pilot study entitled ​'​Taking the Temperature​'​ carried out for the development of a survey tool to evaluate Irish schools’ inclusivity climate in relation to lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgender (LGBT) students.

Dr Ging said, “Other indicators such as ethnicity and sexuality were still very significant factors in bullying behaviour but the prevalence of body size-based bullying surprised us, in both the boys’ and the girls’ schools.”

In total, 418 second-level students between the ages of 12 and 17 participated in the study conducted in three schools in the Dublin area encompassing an all-girls Catholic school, an all-boys Catholic school and a co-educational (mixed gender) community college.

Verbal bullying and threats were common with 32.8% of participants reporting that they had been called hurtful names or threatened at school. It was considerably higher in the all-boys school (48.5%) than in the all-girls school (22.4%) or the mixed community college (23.8%), and was most frequently attributed to body type/size.

In relation to promoting an atmosphere of inclusivity for LGBT students, the research found that only a small number of participants in the all-boys school (7.5%) felt their school was ‘very accepting’ of LGBT people, compared with the 19.1% in the all-girls school and 38.6% in the mixed school.

Key findings included:

In the all-girls school, body type was the most frequently cited reason for having mean rumors or lies spread and for being excluded or ‘left out’.

Physical harassment was considerably more prevalent in the all-boys school.

Students in the mixed community college expressed the highest levels of belonging (81.1%) and feeling safe (68.3% felt very safe).

Only 41.8% of students in the all-girls school and 20.7% of students in the all-boys school felt very safe.

Reasons for feeling safe were attributed to; having good friends​ ​(81.8%); Supportive teachers 50.5%; Bullying not tolerated 42.1%

Dr Ging said, “The schools were also surprised by a lot of what the surveys revealed, highlighting the need for ongoing self-assessment instruments to improve the equality and inclusion climate.”

Feedback from teachers and principals indicated that schools needed broader instruments to evaluate the diversity climate taking into account a range of issues such as gender, sexuality, ethnicity, class, body image and religion, which has led to the development of Dr Roantree's inclusivity survey tool.

You can read about this in thejournal.ie here.