Bullying is rife in Australian primary schools and it severely affects the learning of young students, according to new research.
A report by the Murdoch Children’s Research Institute’s (MCRI) Centre for Adolescent Health found that around half of students in Years 3 to 5 report some level of bullying and more than 20 per cent are being bullied across two or even three years.
The report, which came from a longitudinal study of more than 1,200 students in metropolitan Victoria, said bullying should be “considered a major barrier to effective learning” in Australia.
“Students who are bullied for two or three years in mid primary school fall nearly 10 months behind their peers in numeracy by Year 7.”
It also said “there was some evidence that more boys (26 per cent) than girls (19 per cent) experienced persistent bullying”.
MCRI’s Professor George Patton said it is likely that every Year 3, 4 and 5 classroom in Australia has at least one child experiencing persistent bullying.
The report also detailed how thousands of Australian primary school students are experiencing mental health issues like depression and anxiety.
“One in six students disengage from school during the late primary years. A child’s emotional well-being is central to both learning and engagement and should be a focus for all schools and teachers,” Professor Patton said.
He said “children suffering emotional and/or behavioral problems and bullying” need “greater emphasis in schools and educational policy”.
On Friday, bullying was recognised as a risk factor for mental illness in a major international disease study for the first time.
University of Queensland Postdoctoral Research Fellow Dr Hannah Thomas said the inclusion of bullying as a risk factor for major depressive disorder and anxiety disorders in the Global Burden of Disease study was a “major milestone”.
“For the first time on the global stage, bullying has been formally recognised as being a causative factor for mental illness,” she said.
“Being bullied increases someone’s risk of developing a depressive or anxiety disorder later in life.”