what do the most recent bullying statistics show?


To mark Anti-Bullying Week 2015, the Department for Education have released some interesting statistics on the nature of bullying in English Schools using the Longitudinal Study of Young People in England (LSYPE). This blog post will examine the research behind the headline figures.


The LSYPE is the only major national longitudinal study focussing on pathways through the teenage years and transition into adulthood. The study has followed two cohorts of young people through their later schooling years and collected multiple waves of data. 

  • LSYPE1 followed 14,000 young people who were in Y10 in 2005 
  • LSYPE2 followed 11,166 young people who were in Y10 in 2014

One of the advantages of this survey is that it is from a random and representative sample. As a result, we can make generalisations about bullying in England based on the data provided.

what can we learn from the data?

The interesting aspect of examining multiple cohorts of a longitudinal study is the comparative aspect - we can compare changes through time affecting one cohort of pupils, along with changes between the cohorts. 

The headline figures highlight 5% decrease in 'overall bullying' between the Y10s in 2005 and Y10s in 2014. 'Overall bullying' is defined as experiencing one or more of the following in the past twelve months: name calling, social exclusion, robbery, threats of violence, and actual violence.  

Figure 1: proportion of young people reporting each type of bullying

Source: Department for Education (2015) Bullying: evidence from the LSYPE2, Wave 2. Research Brief.

As figure 1 reveals, alongside the 5% decrease in overall bullying, threats of violence has also decreased by 6% and actual violence has also decreased by 5%. Unfortunately, name calling and robbery have not shared the same proportion of decrease, and social exclusion amongst peers has not changed between the cohorts. 

Another headline measure was the reported decline in the frequency of being bullied, between the cohorts. As Figure 2 reveals, the measure for 'any bullying in the past 12 months' declined by 5% between LSYPE1 and LSYPE2.

figure 2: proportion of young people reporting each frequency of bullying

Source: Department for Education (2015) Bullying: evidence from the LSYPE2, Wave 2. Research Brief.

However, despite the welcome decrease in the headline measure, 'daily bullying' only decreased by 1% and 'weekly, fortnightly, or monthly bullying' did not change between the cohorts.  

how can these trends be explained? 

Although we cannot conclusively determine the causes for the decline in overall bullying and frequency of being bullied, we can reflect on the changes in policy and priorities in the past few decades.

Empirical research that has previously been conducted has highlighted modest decreases in bullying incidences in English schools (Eslea and Smith, 1998; Smith and Shu, 2000). 

There has been a 'significant change' in knowledge, policy, and practice around bullying in the past twenty years (Smith and Brain, 2000). For example, the following initiatives perhaps play a role in addressing overall bullying levels:

  •  the legal requirement for schools to have some form of Anti-Bullying Policy in 1999
  • increasing importance of prioritising children's safety and well-being through the Every Child Matters agenda
  • the Children's Act of 2004
  • the increased public and political pressure on schools through Ofsted and accountability systems
  • investment in Anti-Bullying charities such as the Anti-Bullying Alliance and the Diana Award Anti-Bullying Ambassadors programme, to name a few

It would not be surprising if these changes may have resulted - either directly or indirectly - in decreased levels of bullying overall. 

However, it is clear that there is still a long way to go when it comes to addressing the damaging forms of bullying. For example, policy-makers and schools should consider the limited decreases in students reporting social exclusion and name calling when devising their anti-bullying interventions in school. Furthermore, whilst we welcome the decrease in frequency of being bullied in the past twelve months, Figure 2 reveals limited changes in 'daily' and 'weekly, fortnightly, and monthly' bullying, which can have disastrous consequences for young people's well-being. 

what don't these figures show? 

Orange Person Standing On A Silver And Red Bar Graph Chart, Reaching Back To Assist Others Up To The Top Clipart Illustration Graphic

It has been estimated that 30,000 less children suffer from bullying now than they did a decade ago. Whilst we welcome this number, the figure can mask the realities of the state of bullying in English schools. These figures do not tell us about... 

  • the whole school - these figures only examine bullying experiences of Y10s
  • whether this trend represents overall decreases in cohorts prior to 2005 - as we do not have data for the Y10 cohort prior to this, we cannot judge the impact of government policies and initiatives
  • we cannot judge whether rates of cyber-bullying has changed for Y10s in 2005 and Y10s in 2014. 
  • we cannot learn about the detailed experiences of those being bullied in these cohorts as there is no interview data to compliment this - although it is possible to conduct follow up interviews with LSYPE participants
  • we cannot understand why there have been decreases or increases in bullying frequencies and types - it is possible to begin to understand causes of this through the use of regression analysis, however the LSYPE dataset does not contain detailed information about the school's anti-bullying policies/initiatives


Smith, P.K., & Brain, P. (2000). Bullying in schools: Lessons from two decades of research. Aggressive Behaviour, 26, 1–9.

Smith, P.K., & Shu, S. (2000). What good schools can do about bullying: Findings from a survey in English schools after a decade of research and action. Childhood, 7, 193–212.

Samara, M. & Smith, P.K. (2008). How schools tackle bullying, and the use of whole school policies: changes over the last decade, Educational Psychology, 28:6.

Department for Education (2015) Bullying: evidence from the LSYPE2, Wave 2. Research Brief. Access the research here.

Produced by Pooja Kumari, Research and Policy Analyst at the Diana Award. If you have any questions, please contact pooja.kumari@diana-award.org.uk