Almost one in three children fear after-school bullying

Published: 3 November 2011 at 14:28

Anglia Ruskin leads the first cross-European study into anti-social behaviour

Schoolchildren in England are more fearful of becoming a victim of anti-social behaviour than elsewhere in Europe, according to new research produced by Stephen Moore and Rachel MacLean at Anglia Ruskin University.

The land in-between’ is the first cross-European study examining the experiences and perceptions of crime, bullying and anti-social behaviour of young people during their journey between school and home.

The two-year study, which collected information from over 4,000 school pupils aged 12-16 in eight European countries, discovered that 31% of pupils in England were worried about being the victim of bullying or crime, compared to 19% across Europe as a whole.

Anglia Ruskin’s research sampled 855 children in the East of England, from a mixture of rural and urban schools, and found that 17% ‘sometimes’ experienced victimisation on their way to and from school and 4% often or always experienced victimisation incidents, results which were similar to the European average. 

Stephen Moore, Reader in Social Policy at Anglia Ruskin, said:

“The figure of 4% of children often or always experiencing incidents may seem small but it represents tens of thousands of young people across the country. 

“The primary threat to personal safety comes from other pupils generally from the same school, and whilst incidents may be regarded as ‘low impact’ in terms of objective levels of harm – name-calling was much more common than violence – these low impact incidents can potentially have a significant effect on the emotional wellbeing of young people.

“Interestingly, the patterns of bullying outside school and the responses varied quite noticeably across the different European countries, and the same notions of bullying were not held across the various countries.”

Reported incidents of homophobic and racist bullying were lower in England than in most other European countries, while pupils in England were the most likely to report incidents.

The study found that 16% of pupils in England would report incidents to a teacher (compared to 8% across Europe as a whole) and 32% would tell their parents if an incident happened on their way to and from school (compared to 18% overall). Through interviews and focus groups it was found that pupils were far more likely to tell friends than authority figures.

Stephen Moore added:

“The issue of who to turn to when a problem occurs during the time before and after school was a dilemma for the young people, as it was recognised by the pupils that threats and violations to personal safety at these times were not necessarily a matter in which they wanted to turn to the school for support. 

“It was most often other young people who provided the support and advice when young people were bullied.  The research found that this level of support was not fully acknowledged in current bullying strategies, nor was the sophistication of young people in dealing with bullying incidents. 

“One important conclusion of the study is that the majority of young people want to feel responsible for the management of their own safety and their own lives. The mutual support that pupils give spontaneously to other young people needs to be harnessed by policy makers instead of focusing on adult-led, formal initiatives.”

The full report, titled ‘The land in-between’: A comparative European study of the victimisation of young people travelling to and from school, will be published in Crime Prevention and Community Safety journal (Vol 13, No 4, 2011).  The study was funded by the European Commission and the research was carried out in England, Spain, Poland, Hungary, Cyprus, Portugal, Holland and Italy.