As over 10 million children approach the end of their first month back at school, the anti-bullying charity The Diana Award, in partnership with Nationwide Building Society, has released new research revealing that being bullied at school can have a devastating lifelong psychological impact that continues throughout adulthood.
Celebrities Rhys Stephenson and Lee Hinchcliffe will host an assembly streamed across the UK to bring together thousands of schoolchildren to tackle bullying, with further support from Will Poulter, Michelle Heaton, Curtis Pritchard, Molly Rainford, Shona McGarty, Jake Wood, Olive Gray, Tylan Grant, Laura Hopkinson and Okulaja.
The research shows that nearly two in three adults (67%) still have insecurities due to the bullying they experienced in school, with many saying it has negatively affected their self-esteem and mental health in adult life. Adults who are still carrying the trauma of childhood bullying are more likely to worry about their weight (69%), intelligence (38%), and social status at work or even among friends (37%). In particular, playground bullying around one’s physical appearance or weight can leave lingering damage, with adults responding that they don’t feel comfortable taking pictures (58%), wearing swimwear (55%) or even being intimate with their partner (29%).
Yet it’s not just being bullied for weight and physical appearance which leaves a long-lasting impact; those who had a bad experience at school have been left with psychological scars and nearly two in five (63%) worry about their intelligence and say they often feel stupid in their day to day lives. Over half of adults (57%) said they don’t feel confident at all in their intellectual abilities, due to the unkind comments they received about their intelligence as schoolchildren. Furthermore, adults who were bullied at school due to being more academically successful than other children, sadly admit to hiding their intellectual abilities as adults which could impact on their opportunities for career success.
Of the adults who were bullied as children, 73% admitted that playground bullying has left them with low confidence, and nearly half (48%) of those polled now can’t even trust their own friends. These negative school experiences appear to influence how parents raise their own kids, with just over three in five (61%) saying they are nervous about their child being hurt through bullying when school starts again in September after the break.
As a result, over two in five (45%) parents said their damaging experience at school has influenced them to talk about bullying frequently with their child. Additionally, 57% remarked that they are always on the lookout for signs and symptoms their child is being subjected to bullying, due to the impact this could have on them as grownups. Over three in five parents (64%) believe that bullying is now worse in schools than during their school years, with many citing social media and modern pressures that children face today.
Worryingly, 84% of parents who were bullied at school say their own children are now going through a similar experience and it appears the most common form of bullying is still appearance or weight related, whether it’s on the playground, after school or on social media. The Diana Award is a champion of the Online Safety Bill which is currently going through parliament, and its importance is highlighted by the 77% of parents who believe social media is a leading cause of bullying in school.
Nearly 44% of the children whose parent was also previously bullied were nervous about school starting again in September, with kids worrying about getting hurt physically, emotionally, as well as losing friends. And disturbingly, 83% of children surveyed have experienced a form of bullying, whether it’s verbal or physical and appear to be taking similar steps to their parents to avoid bullying. 21% of school children admit to not being themselves and 17% admit to even changing their appearance in a bid to fit in with peers. With children about to return to the classroom, more than two in five schoolkids (43%) worry most about being left out of friendship groups when term restarts.
However, it’s not all bleak reading as 92% of children said they felt supported at home by their parents when it comes to bullying, perhaps due to the understanding of their mum or dad who has gone through a similar childhood experience. Children are also very aware of bullying happening in their immediate circles and want to stamp it out – 45% will report the issue to their teacher and 42% would tell their parents.
These statistics come ahead of the third annual ‘The Big Anti-Bullying Assembly’ from The Diana Award and Nationwide Building Society. This virtual event, supported by a host of household celebrity names, will be watched by primary school classrooms and homes across the country on Monday 3rd October.
The Assembly aims to bring together millions of school-aged children, with the view to empower them to stand up against bullying. The Assembly will be hosted by famed CBBC presenters Rhys Stephenson and Lee Hinchcliffe, and will be supported by a host of celebrity names, including Hollywood actor Will Poulter; singer Michelle Heaton; EastEnders’ Jake Wood and Shona McGarty; dancer and reality star Curtis Pritchard; singer and actress Molly Rainford; actors Olive Gray and Tylan Grant; and singer and Youth Parliament member Okulaja.
Those tuning into the assembly will hear personal stories and accounts from the celebrities and young ambassadors involved in the campaign, as well as key information and guidance on how to recognise and handle bullying in schools, highlighting the support and resources available to do so. This initiative is part of a three-year partnership between The Diana Award and Nationwide Building Society in the training of 10,000 young people as Anti-Bullying Ambassadors in primary schools across the UK.
Will Poulter, actor and anti-bullying ambassador, says:
““Like many I experienced bullying at school. This stays with you, and as an adult I now appreciate how it can affect your mental health, prevent you fulfilling your potential at school & for some shape their future.”
Alex Holmes, Deputy CEO of The Diana Award, says:
“This alarming new research reveals the long-lasting impact of bullying and how it can affect us psychologically into adulthood. We’re determined to tackle bullying behaviour at a young age by shaping the attitudes, culture and behaviour of bullying.”
To date, over 50,000 young people have been trained as Anti-Bullying Ambassadors in 4,300 schools throughout the UK by The Diana Award. This network of young people develops and shares best practices and have been trained to provide ongoing peer support to their cohort. The programme, which has backing from England’s Department for Education, has received hundreds of positive endorsements in Ofsted school inspection reports reducing bullying and increasing safety and wellbeing. The Diana Award offers their Anti-Bullying Ambassador training free of charge to schools across the UK. To sign up for training, advice and support visit https://diana-award.org.uk/anti-bullying-training/.
‘The Big Anti-Bullying Assembly’ from The Diana Award and Nationwide Building Society will be beamed into primary schools and homes nationwide on 3rd October 20212. To sign up to watch the assembly, download free resource packs and for more information visit www.thebigantibullyingassembly.com.