Young people

One in three children fear bullying

One in three children fear bullying Worst figures in Europe

The journey home from school should be all about high spirits, playground gossip and sneaky trips to buy sweets.

But the stark reality is that nearly one in three children in this country live in fear of being bullied once they pass the school gates.

New research reveals the unsettling truth that schoolchildren in England are more scared of becoming victims of anti-social behaviour than those elsewhere in Europe.

The two-year study from Anglia Ruskin University saw more than 4,000 school pupils interviewed across eight European countries, including Spain, Poland, Hungary, Cyprus, Portugal, Holland and Italy.

It revealed that 31 per cent of English 12 to 16 year olds – from both urban and rural areas - were worried about being bullied or becoming the victims of crime, compared to 19 per cent across Europe as a whole.

In fact, 17 per cent had already been subject to victimisation on their way to and from school, while four per cent were always bullied during their journey.

The culprits were more often than not pupils from the same school and while incidents generally related to name-calling rather than outright violence, the psychological impact was significant, said the researchers.

Study co-author Stephen Moore, a reader in social policy, said: “The figure of four per cent 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.”

Happily, reported incidents on homophobic and racist bullying were lower in England than elsewhere – and pupils in England were most likely to report incidents.

While eight per cent of pupils in Europe would tell a teacher about being victimised, the persistent anti-bullying campaigns in the UK appear to have paid off, with 16 per cent of schoolchildren in England saying they would report incidents to a teacher. And 32 per cent would tell their parents, compared to 18 per cent overall.

But they were most likely to tell friends rather than authority figures.

“It was most often other young people who provided the support and advice when young people were bullied,” Moore said.

Current anti-bullying strategies did not acknowledge the important role of peers in supporting victims, he said, “nor [did they acknowledge] 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," he added.

The full report, 'The land in-between: A comparative European study of the victimisation of young people travelling to and from school,' is to be published in the Crime Prevention and Community Safety journal.

This article was published on Fri 4 November 2011

Image © Piotr Marcinski -

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