Children who do not have any friends and children that expose others to bullying or is exposed to bullying themselves, run a much higher risk of not attaining high school eligibility. This is the result from a new research study by Friends and Örebro University in Sweden. The unique study includes grades in the subjects Swedish, Swedish as a Second Language, Mathematics and English.

The study illustrates how prevalence of bullying and acts of degrading treatment, lack of friends and absenteeism affect children’s academic performance. Our research is the first of its kind in Sweden and it has been conducted through a longitudinal study, in which we have been able to follow students during several years.

Of the three factors mentioned above, lack of friends (social relations) during break time is the factor with most negative impact on grades. Children who say they are being alone have three times higher risk of failing grades that same year, compared to children who have someone to be with. Children who are being alone risk not being able to continue their studies at high school.

– In one way, we are not surprised that students’ social relations influence their grades to such large extent. However, it does show the strong connection between the school’s different missions. The work against bullying and to promote good relations among students has to penetrate all subject teaching, throughout the school activities. This way we can create a safe and secure learning environment including good academic performances, says Jacob Flärdh Aspegren, head of Friends’ research and development department.

Bullying is also a high risk factor in order not to pass grades. Among children who have been exposed to bullying at some time during the measurement period, the risk of fail grades in basic subjects increases by 75 percentage. However, the effects of bullying differs between boys and girls. Among boys, it is the perpetrators, the bullies, who run a higher risk of not obtaining pass grades. On the contrary, victimization creates higher risks among girls.

The third factor explored in this study is absenteeism, truancy. Also here, the effects are apparent. More truancy increases the risk of obtaining fail grades. For girls however, involvement in bullying is a greater risk factor than absenteeism in school. Among boys, absenteeism in school is a greater risk factor than any form of involvement in bullying.

Friends suggests the following measures:

  • The government strengthens the Swedish School Authorities’ mission to gather, develop and disseminate practical and pedagogical useful knowledge and methods. The authorities are called on to be more explicit in their support to the schools.
  • All school owners need to improve their analysis, resource allocation, support and monitoring process, both when taking measures as well as in the preventative work and in efforts to promote a safe and secure school. The increased demands also require the owner to clarify for the schools that this is prioritized work.
  • The work for children’s right to a safe and secure school environment can never be reduced to a specific time, a specific work group or a specific mission. There is a need for more support to and better knowledge exchange on how the value-based work can permeate the entire school day, both within as well as between the owner of the school and the school itself.

Read the complete report here