Northern Ireland

Ballyclare High School: Children design site to tackle cyberbullying

Emma Blacoe and David Andrew
Image caption The site was developed by children at the school

Pupils at a County Antrim school have developed a new tool to target cyberbullying.

The new reporting system, called 'Step Up', is in use at Ballyclare High School and can be used at home, in school or on a smartphone.

The school believes it is the first system of its kind in Northern Ireland.

It means pupils can raise concerns with the appropriate teacher directly via the school website.

14-year-old Emma Blacoe, who helped develop it, said that teachers could receive a lot of information about alleged incidents.

Image caption Pupils are taken to an online form from the school's website

"Pupils can upload files and pictures of screenshots and chats if they feel someone's in danger," she said.

"They can also simply just say if they're being pressured or bullied or if anyone else is."

If pupils click on a button on the school website they are taken to an online form where they specify their year group and who they want to deal with their concerns.

The information they provide cannot be seen by anyone but themselves and teaching staff, and they can choose to give their name or remain anonymous.

Image caption Step Up is easy to operate

David Andrew, who also worked on 'Step Up', said that it was easy to operate and accessible to pupils.

"If pupils really feel there's something which needs to be sorted out they can do it," he said.

"Bullying is never acceptable and the sooner someone steps up, the sooner it can be sorted out."

The school's head of cyber safety, Mhairi Hill, said teachers would investigate every allegation they received information about.

Image caption Mhairi Hill says children can't learn if they are distressed or upset in class

"Staff will pick it up and the earliest opportunity and follow the procedure already in place for dealing with incidents," she said.

"With online bullying, pupils can come to us with screenshots and that's concrete evidence we can use to take the investigation forward.

"We would establish the facts before proceeding but we would follow up every report.

"If a child has felt it's necessary to raise the concern then it's worth following up in our eyes.

"We have a duty of care for our pupils and if a pupil's upset or distressed in class they're not going to learn to their full potential so it's important that we address these issues."