Schools alerted to bullying danger as leaving age rises to 18

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The proposed rise in the school leaving age could see more young people in the UK being bullied because of their sexual orientation, according to an international study.

The proposed rise in the school leaving age could see more young people in the UK being bullied because of their sexual orientation, according to an international study.

A report from Brunel University and the University of Illinois, published in the March 2013 edition of Pediatrics, found that while teenagers who are lesbian, gay or bisexual (LGB) are twice as likely as their heterosexual peers to be bullied at school, this decreases as they get older.

The study was conducted using data from the DfE’s Longitudinal Survey of Young People in England survey, which examined the bullying experiences of 8,700 adolescents and young people.

Overall, 187 respondents who identified themselves as LGB tended to experience higher rates of bullying. However, on average, bullying of LGB youth declined significantly as they left high school.

More than half – 57 per cent – of lesbian or bisexual girls reported being bullied at age 13 or 14, compared to six per cent at age 20 or 21. Among boys, the bullying declined from 52 to nine per cent between the same age period.

However, compared to heterosexual peers, LGB boys and girls were about twice as likely to be bullied throughout high school. 

After high school, lesbian or bisexual girls were no more likely to be bullied than heterosexual girls, but gay or bisexual boys’ likelihood of being bullied actually increased after high school compared to heterosexual boys. 

Professor Ian Rivers from Brunel University, who co-authored the study, said: “While there is a decline in bullying with age, the findings suggest the answer to ‘does it get better?’ is much more nuanced.

“For those in schools and colleges, the data suggests that bullying is much less likely to happen after 16 years of age when education becomes selective, however it does persist for a small group of young LGBs and we must never forget this. 

“It seems likely that the proposed rise in the school leaving age from 16 to 18 years of age will have an impact upon rates of bullying, and makes it all the more important that we continue to tackle this form of prejudice-based bullying in all our schools and colleges.”


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