The number of suspensions handed out to pupils for bullying in the North’s secondary schools is in decline.
There were 179 suspensions for bullying in 2013/14, down from 224 and 219 in the two previous years.
The Department of Education wants to see instances fall further and is now undertaking a consultation on addressing bullying in schools.
At present, schools are required to record incidents and provide annual returns to the department on the total number of suspensions and expulsions as a result of bullying behaviour.
However, the specific details of the motivation behind each incident and the outcome are not currently provided.
There is also no agreed definition of bullying, which minister John O’Dowd says can lead to confusion as to what constitutes bullying and can lead to inconsistent approaches in how schools handle reported incidents.
Proposals contained in the new consultation document include that a common definition of bullying is outlined in legislation.
In addition, all grant-aided schools must centrally record all incidents of bullying to include motivating factors and actions taken by the school.
Boards of governors must also designate at least one governor to take responsibility for the school’s anti-bullying practices and procedures.
Mr O’Dowd said: “These proposed changes will provide insight into the overall scale of the problem, identify emerging trends in bullying and allow for evidence-based policy changes.
“It will also be of significant benefit to the pastoral care teams inside all schools in tailoring their anti-bullying policies and practices.
“Bullying takes many forms and how it is carried out is changing with advancements in technology. We need to take action now to eradicate bullying behaviour in our schools.”