From bullying to beer-drinking

16th November 2007 at 00:00
Ofsted survey gives insight into pupils' lives as teachers prepare for anti-bullying week. David Marley reports.Almost a third of children are regularly bullied and schools often fail to deal with the problem, the largest-ever survey of pupils in England has discovered.

The findings, from an Ofsted questionnaire of 111,000 pupils, found that 30 per cent had been bullied "a couple of times" in the previous four weeks. The same proportion of pupils said their schools did not handle the situation well.

The results of the wide-ranging survey of 10- to 15-year-olds come as the Government prepares for national bullying prevention week, which starts on Monday. It announced yesterday that it would fund training for older pupils to act as mentors to younger pupils who were being bullied. Ed Balls, the Children, Schools and Families Secretary, said that the pound;3 million peer mentoring scheme was one of the biggest ever school anti-bullying campaigns.

Sir Al Aynsley-Green, the children's commissioner for England, published his own report today criticising bullying complaints procedures in schools. He called for local authorities to provide independent mediation services to resolve disputes about how bullying is dealt with and the creation of independent complaints panels.

The Ofsted TellUs2 survey will be repeated annually to identify what is happening in children's lives. Children were asked about their attitudes to school, teachers and the curriculum.

On a wider level they were asked about how often they drink and smoke, whether they do exercise and their involvement in community work. Many responses were positive, with the vast majority saying they were healthy and more than half reporting they had raised money for charity.

However, more worrying results were also reported. Almost 20 per cent of children aged between 10 and 15 said they had been drunk at least once in the past four weeks. Of the oldest children, 16 per cent said they had been drunk on at least three occasions during that time.

Some 15 per cent of children aged 12 to 15 said they had taken drugs, the majority trying cannabis. A smaller 3 per cent said they had tried other drugs, including cocaine, LSD and ecstasy.

The questionnaires were all completed anonymously at school, reducing the chance that pupils were exaggerating their answers to impress or compete with peers.

Christine Gilbert, chief inspector of schools, said: "We urge policy makers, local authorities and schools to look hard at the findings and use them to influence their plans and actions.

"The survey presents much that is positive about life for children and young people today. However, it is clear that more needs to be done to address young people's worries and concerns."

More than a third of Year 8 and Year 10 children wanted schools to offer better advice on sex and relationships, with significant numbers also calling for better information on drinking, drugs and healthy eating.

As revealed in The TES, a number of schools boycotted the survey because they feared it was too intrusive. Pupils were asked to give their full home postcodes and then asked personal questions including whether their parents had paid jobs.

Ofsted was criticised for not insisting that schools seek parental permission before children took the survey. In light of the complaints, Ofsted has wiped all the information about family life and will not ask those questions in future.

Window on contemporary school life

The main findings of the Ofsted TellUs2 survey of 111,000 10 to 15-year-olds:

30% had been bullied a couple of times in the past four weeks

51% are worried about exams

37% of Years 8 and 10 pupils want better advice on sex and relationships

19% have been drunk in the past four weeks

15% of 12- to 15-year-olds have tried drugs

50% have ambitions to go to university

79% want lessons to be more fun and interesting.

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