John O'Dowd (Sinn Féin)
The policy position here, in the South and in Britain is that bullying behaviour is unacceptable. Bullying behaviour, for any reason and in every form, has no place in schools. All schools have a role to play in teaching respect for diversity and should support pupils who have been subjected to bullying.
Although the underpinning policy is the same, the approach used across Britain, in the South and here does vary. All grant-aided schools here are required by law to include, in their discipline policy, measures to prevent all forms of bullying among pupils. It is a matter for schools to determine, in consultation with pupils and parents, the details of their policy. The publication ‘Pastoral Care in Schools: Promoting Positive Behaviour’ offers detailed guidance on tackling bullying. This guidance is intended to stimulate discussion in a school around the issue of bullying. It is intended to encourage collective ownership of the issue and the actions to be taken to counter it.
The position is similar in other jurisdictions in the South and in Britain. In Wales, schools must, by law, have a specific policy on bullying. Schools in England and in the South must have a behaviour policy that includes the prevention of bullying. In Scotland, schools are not legally obliged to have an anti-bullying policy, but it is recommended as good practice.