Bullying in schools is starting at pre-school age, new research from Victoria University has found.
More than 1200 teachers and principals were surveyed for Bullying in New Zealand Schools, and almost all of them - 94 per cent - said bullying was happening in their schools regularly.
More than two-thirds felt bullying was starting between the ages of two, when children start pre-school, and eight.
Victoria University Associate Professor Vanessa Green said while some aggressive behaviour was normal for a young child, bullying was learned. "It's those early things like ‘you can't play', ‘you can't come to my party', that exclusionary behaviour that children start to engage in.
"If they're not picked up on they seem to think it's OK."
Dr Green said the study also showed teachers had very little training in how to manage bullying, and it needed to be prioritised.
Teachers felt frustrated and confused about whose responsibility it was to address bullying.
Dr Green advocates a whole-community approach to the problem. "It's no good saying who's responsible - parents or schools? It's got to be both. We've got to all take responsibility as a community."
Mt Cook School principal Sandra McCallum said their school was pro-active in managing bullying, constantly reinforcing the message that it was OK to tell an adult you were being bullied and it would be dealt with immediately.
"You work on it day in and day out to reinforce messages around the damage it can do."
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