Government research reports 1 in 5 secondary pupils have been bullied in the past 12 months

In March, the Department for Education in England published a report on the November 2021 - January 2022 findings from their Parent, Pupil and Learner Panel omnibus survey. The survey collects views and experiences of parents of pupils in years 1 to 11, school pupils in years 7-13, and 16 to 18 learners in further education classroom settings. 

Girl with teacher

The omnibus survey, which regularly goes out to parents and pupils, collects data on topics such as behaviour, attendance, special educational needs and disability (SEND) support, and mental health and wellbeing. In this article we have highlighted the figures from the report that relate specifically to bullying. You can read the full report here

As you can see in the table below, the report found that 21% of all pupils surveyed reported experience of bullying in the past 12 months. Unfortunately this is an increase from the July 2021 findings, where the same statistic was 15%. When parents were asked if their children had been a victim of bullying in the past 12 months, around a quarter (23%) said they had been.

omnibus survey findings

Table showing pupils' experience of bullying in the past 12 months

It should be noted that the question to pupils in the survey was: “In the past 12 months have you been a victim of bullying for any reason?”, and did not seem to include a clear definition of bullying. 

The findings from secondary school pupils in England also reported the following groups of pupils were more likely to experience bullying: 

  • pupils eligible for Free School Meals (26% compared with 19%); 
  • pupils with Special Educational Needs (31% compared with 19%);
  • white pupils (23% compared with 15% of BAME pupils);
  • and pupils from single parent households (26% compared with 19%).

Additionally, the report suggested a connection between school absence and bullying: pupils were more likely to report experiences of bullying if they had not attended school every weekday in the last two weeks (28% compared with 19% who did attend every day), and that percentage rose to almost half of pupils who had not attended at all (44%). Additionally, the proportion of pupils that were absent from school due to anxiety or mental health problems was higher among pupils that had been a victim of bullying (32% compared with 16% of pupils that had not been bullied).

Finally, the report included a clear link between bullying and poor mental health and wellbeing:

  • One third of pupils (33%) who recorded a low score for happiness also reported experience of bullying (compared to 16% of pupils with a high happiness score).
  • Loneliness was reported at a significantly higher rate by pupils who had experienced bullying (24% compared with 9% for those who did not report experiencing bullying).
  • Pupils who reported being bullied were more likely to have lower self-esteem, for example 39% of those who did not report being bullied said they thought they were ahead in maths compared with 33% of those who had been bullied. Also when asked how ready they felt for starting the new academic year, pupils that reported being bullied were less likely to feel ready (54% compared with 73%).

Read the omnibus survey findings here