Scotland

Report highlights 'gut-wrenching' bullying in Scottish schools

Bullying Image copyright Getty Images

Human rights should be taught from the earliest age possible to change attitudes to bullying, according to a Holyrood committee.

MSPs on the Equalities and Human Rights Committee said more needed to be done to tackle the problem in schools.

Committee convener Christina McKelvie said it had heard "gut-wrenching" evidence from young people during its inquiry into the issue.

But she stressed there was already some "inspiring" work being done.

The committee's report said it had uncovered "a real sense that prejudice-based bullying is on the increase".

It concluded that racism "has made a resurgence", gender-based bullying and harassment "appears to be commonplace", and bullying towards young lesbian or gay people "is still prevalent".

'Healthy relationships'

The committee has made 29 recommendations, among them measures it wants the Scottish government to adopt in its forthcoming refreshed anti-bullying strategy.

These include a preventative approach to bullying, improved research to understand the extent and nature of the problem, mandatory recording of bullying incidents and more training for teachers.

The government and councils are also urged to "ensure that consent and healthy relationships be taught from the beginning of primary school in an age-appropriate manner to safeguard children" amid evidence of children as young as 12 being coerced into sexual activity.

The Scottish government welcomed the report and said it would consider its recommendations carefully.

The committee had spent eight months listening to evidence about bullying.

Ms McKelvie, an SNP MSP, said: "We heard some gut-wrenching and heartbreaking stories. One stark reminder of the reality faced by far too many bullied young people is that 27% of LGBT children have attempted suicide.

"But we have also heard of some inspiring and great practice going on around Scotland - and there are schools where bullying is now seen as not cool.

"We are trying to bottle that attitude change and roll it out across the whole country."

Susie McGuinness, a 19-year-old Glasgow University student, told her story of bullying and classroom harassment to MSPs while they were taking evidence for the report.

She said: "I know from my own experience that there are instances of girls who have been filmed being assaulted, and that there is footage of rape going around schools and not being reported or dealt with.

"People need to realise that sexual harassment and bullying of this nature is happening to girls aged 12 or 13. By primary 6, I was sitting in classes in which boys were taking it in turns to shout 'rape' the loudest and I'm not alone."

'Human dignity'

The children's commissioner for Scotland, Bruce Adamson, said the report was a "call to action" for the authorities.

"Bullying impacts children in a number of ways," he said.

"It cuts right to the heart of their identity and their human dignity but it also has an impact on their access to other rights - like their ability to have a full education, to engage in cultural activities to engage in playing.

"And as we've seen from this report, and some of the really powerful evidence given, it has a real impact on things like their health including their mental health.

"At the most extreme we see issues where it actually engages the right to life where a number of children, particularly children from the LGBTI community, have contemplated suicide - so this is a real call to action."

A Scottish government spokeswoman said it funds its national anti-bullying service, Respectme, to support children, young people and their parents.

She added: "Bullying of any kind is unacceptable.

"That is why it is important for all schools and local authorities to have anti-bullying policies in place and it is vital that local authorities and teachers challenge any racist, homophobic and abusive behaviour in our schools."

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