Strictly embargoed until: 00:01am Monday 17th November
1 in 10 adults have used
abusive language towards a disabled
Results of a new survey, released today by theAnti-Bullying
Alliance, hosted by leading children's charity theNational
Children's Bureau, suggest that adults are perpetuating and
normalising bullying behaviour by using discriminatory language in
their everyday conversations, with some directing abusive words at
disabled people or those with special educational needs (SEN).
The findings, launched today to mark the start ofAnti-Bullying
Week, show that four in ten (44%)adults use the words 'spaz',
'spastic', 'retard' or 'mong' in 'casual' conversation; half of
whom justify doing so as part of 'banter'. In
addition,65%hear others using these words in conversation, with
over a third (37%)witnessing them being used online.
When it came to using the words directly towards another person;
almost a third (30%) admitted to doing so; with1 in 5saying they
had done so just as 'banter' and1 in 10to be deliberately
Further findings suggest that children have also adopted this
cursory use of bullying language; 70% of teachers polled hear their
pupils using the words 'spaz', 'spastic', 'retard' or 'mong' at
school. When it came tohowchildren used this language;halfof those
teachers overheard pupils using it in 'casual' conversation, with
the same number employing the words to insult their peers.
The survey also showed that more than1 in 10adults have directed
these words at a disabled person/person with SEN, withhalf of
thosedoing so to be insulting; findings which were echoed amongst
the younger generation:
- more than half of teachers (55%) hear children directing
discriminatory language at a disabled child/child with SEN, with
just under half of these instances directed as insults.
Despite the prolific conversational use of these words; over
half of adults (53%) said that it wasalwaysoffensive to use these
words. However, nearly a third (30%) said that they don't consider
these words to be offensive if used in' banter'.
Most adults are ignorant of the meaning of offensive
When asked if they knew what these words meant and where they
- over half of adults surveyed didn't know the history of the
- over a third didn't know where the word 'spastic' came
- with a quarter unaware of the origins of the word
After reading the origins of the words, with an explanation that
they are offensive to disabled people/ people with SEN, over a
quarter (28%) said they would still continue to use the words.
Minister for Children and Families, Edward Timpson
"This is completely unacceptable. No child should ever
say or hear these words whether used in conversation or as an
"Schools have a responsibility to ensure that children can
learn in an environment free from prejudice."
"To help tackle this we have given more power to heads to
punish bad behaviour and there's also now a greater focus on
behaviour and bullying in school inspections."
National Coordinator of the Anti-Bullying Alliance,
Lauren Seager-Smith, said:
"1 in 5 children of school age have a special educational
need, those who existing evidence shows us are significantly more
likely to suffer bullying. Our findings show that children are
using these bullying words in general conversation, and worse
still, to deliberately insult each other and their disabled peers
or those with special educational needs."
"As adults we need to ask ourselves what our role is in
this, when it became acceptable to use these and other
discriminatory words as part of 'banter' and why we feel disabled
people and those with special educational needs are fair
"Existing evidence demonstrates just how pervasive the
bullying of disabled children and those with special education
needs is, yet as a society we are using discriminatory and hurtful
language that is perpetuating the bullying of these vulnerable
children in our schools. We must challenge the normalisation of
this language and recognise the impact it is having on the
attitudes of generations to come."
Children with special educational needs and disabled
children are more likely to be bullied
- Primary school pupils with special educational needs are twice
as likelyas other children to suffer from persistent
- 83% of young people with learning difficulties have suffered
- over 90% of parents of children with Asperger Syndrome have
reported the bullying of their child in the previous
For more information please contact the National Children's
Bureau's media office on 0207 843 6045 / 47 or email email@example.com. For urgent
enquiries out of office hours call 07721 097 033.
Notes to editors
The poll was conducted with 400 teachers (200 primary and
200 secondary) and 1000 adults by OnePoll in November
The Anti-Bullying Alliance
The Anti-Bullying Alliance (ABA) is a unique coalition of
organisations and individuals, who work together to reduce bullying
and create safer environments in which children and young people
can live, grow, play and learn. ABA is hosted by the National
Children's Bureau. For more information visit www.anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk
Anti-Bullying Week 2014takes place 17-21 November 2014.
For more information on how you can get involved in Anti-Bullying
Week 2014 visit www.anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk
The National Children's Bureau (NCB)
The National Children's Bureau is a leading charity that for 50
years has been improving the lives of children and young people,
especially the most vulnerable. We work with children and for
children, to influence government policy, be a strong voice for
young people and practitioners, and provide creative solutions on a
range of social issues. For more information visit www.ncb.org.uk
- As part of the government's special educational needs and
disabilities (SEND) reforms DfE have given the Anti Bullying
Alliance, hosted by the national Children's Bureau, £1.5 million
over two years to help develop strategies to tackle SEND bullying
- Since September, schools have been urged to also make clear the
measures they take to prevent SEND pupils being bullied. This must
include guidance which is accessible to those who need it.
- The Department for Education has also produced a factsheet
which outlines schools' responsibilities to support children who
are bullied, including sections on SEND.
1.Primary school pupils with special educational needs are twice
as likely as other children to suffer from persistent bullying,
according to new research published by the Institute of
University of London.
The study, the largest of its kind to be carried out in England,
analysed information on more than 19,000 children and adolescents
born in the early 1990s and 2000s.
Researchers from the IOE's Centre for Longitudinal Studies<http://www.cls.ioe.ac.uk/>
and the London School of Economics<http://www.lse.ac.uk/> examined
the prevalence of bullying at ages 7 and 15 among children with
different types of cognitive and physical impairments.
Seventeen per cent of children and teenagers had special
educational needs, of whom 4 to 5 per cent had a 'statement'
outlining what additional support they should receive at school.
Children with statements of need are generally those with the most
severe learning difficulties.
At age 7, 12 per cent of children with special needs and 11 per
cent of those with a statement said they were bullied 'all of the
time' by other pupils, compared to just 6 per cent of their
2.Research indicates that the rates of vulnerability to bullying
for young people with SEN and/or disabilities are very significant.
Reports suggest that, for example, bullying may have been
83 per cent (or roughly eight out of ten) of young people with
learning difficulties (see, for example, Luciano and Savage 2007,
and Mencap 2007)
3.Over 90 per cent of parents of children with Asperger Syndrome
reported that their child had been bullied in the previous 12
months.L. Little, 'Middle-Class Mothers' Perceptions of Peer and
Sibling Victimisation among Children with Asperger's Syndrome and
Non-Verbal Learning Disorders' (2002) 25(1) Issues in Comprehensive
Paediatric Nursing pp. 43 - 57.
Further statistics regarding the bullying of
disabled children and those with special educational
Research and literature indicates that the rates of
vulnerability to bullying for young people with SEN and/or
disabilities are very significant. Reports suggest that, for
example, bullying may have been experienced by:
- 82 per cent of young people who are disfluent (those with a
- 59 per cent of them at least once a week, and 91 per cent by
namecalling (Mooney and Smith 1995)
- 70 per cent of children with autistic spectrum disorders
combined with other characteristics (for example,
obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) (Bejerot and Mortberg
- 39 per cent of children with speech and language difficulties
(Sweeting and West 2001), while Savage (2005) argues that young
people with speech difficulties are three times more likely to be
bullied than their peers
- 30 per cent of children with reading difficulties (Sweeting and
-56% of children with a learning disability said they cried
because of bullying, and 33% hid away in their bedroom. Nearly half
of children with a learning disability had been bullied for over a
year, and many were bullied for even longer. MENCAP
(2007) Bullying wrecks lives: the experiences of children and young
people with a learning disability. London: Mencap.
-There is a growing evidence base linking bullying to mental
health problems which has changed both government and societal
attitudes to bullying. Findings showed that 61.5 per cent of
participants reported being bullied, with 62.5 per cent of bullied
participants reporting that being bullied was an important reason
for their attendance at the CAMH service. DYER, K. and
TEGGART, T. (2007) Bullying experiences of child and adolescent
mental health service-users: a pilot survey. Child Care in
Practice, vol.13, no.4 (Oct). pp351-365.