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Scots are low on the list of bullies

Bullying in Scottish schools is declining sharply compared to most other western nations. But many young lads still like a violent scrap, according to an authoritative World Health Organisation survey released today (Friday).

This found that Scotland's strong showing on countering bullying is challenged by the reality that one pupil in every classroom says they are bullied at least two or three times a month.

Candace Currie, the Edinburgh University researcher who masterminded the study, believes that recent work on anti-bullying and school ethos has helped to push Scotland forward against 34 other countries in Europe and North America. It is now ranked 28th in the international league of reported incidences of bullying. England is worse off at 15th.

A sample of Scots 11-year-olds shows that 9.7 per cent of boys and 10.3 per cent of girls say they are bullied - against international averages of 16.4 per cent and 12.8 per cent respectively. Among 15-year-olds, the rate for Scottish boys is 4.9 per cent and for girls 6.3 per cent. International averages are 10.7 per cent for boys and 8.4 per cent for girls.

However, Andrew Mellor of the Scottish Anti-Bullying Network remains cautious about the figures which are drawn from a study of 4,500 Scottish pupils in P7, S2 and S4.

"It is certainly true that Scotland does not have as high a reported incidence of bullying as some other countries but I am wary about making a direct link between the work we do and the figures," Mr Mellor said.

Norway, which he says is the lead country in attacking bullying, records higher returns. It has been tackling bullying since 1969 and Mr Mellor suggests it may be that the number of reported incidents reflects this sensitivity.

"You cannot prove cause and effect but I would like to believe that the work we are doing is having an effect," Mr Mellor said.

Findings from the study - Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children - also show that pupils who are most positive about their school environment are most positive about their well-being.

Mr Mellor said: "A child who is unhappy at home is more likely to be bullied at school. That unhappiness can be manifested as a vulnerability which can be exploited by other children. And a child bullied at school will be unhappy in other circumstances and research shows that can have an impact in later life."

One of the less positive results from the WHO study is the finding that 18.1 per cent of boys aged 15 and 6.5 per cent of girls reported that they had been in a fight three or more times in the past year. Reports of multiple fights among Scottish youngsters exceeded the international average in all three age groups.

Among 11-year-olds, 29.2 per cent of Scottish boys report being involved in fights, compared with an international average of 18.4 per cent. "This is a problem we should be more concerned about," Mr Mellor said.

More findings next week Full results from the Health Behaviour in School-Aged Children study for the World Health Organisation are being published today (Friday). Scottish evidence was gathered by the Child and Adolescent Health Research Unit at Edinburgh University.

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