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Survey finds bullying of the faithful

30 November 2012

by a staff reporter

BULLYING and harassment because of religion is "alive and well" in further-education colleges in the UK, new research suggests.

The Skills Funding Agency commissioned Babcock Research to survey students in adult education, to find out how their religion or belief affected their experiences of learning.

They found that one in ten of the respondents had been bullied or harassed for their religious or other beliefs. Those with non-religious beliefs experienced the same amount of harassment. Just under half of them had reported the bullying to their college.

More than half of those who said that they had a religious belief were Christian - 57 per cent; followed by Muslim - 26 per cent; and Hindus - four per cent.

"It appears that the motivations for bullying and harassment lie in the perception of difference, and in competing and opposing beliefs," the report said.

Researchers suggested that problems occurred when accommodation was made for certain groups. This could lead to others feeling marginalised or excluded. "Before trying to accommodate a particular group's perceived or stated need, it may be worthwhile consulting the wider learner community. Consultation will ensure that no learner feels totally excluded, including those with 'no beliefs'."

Some religious groups were less tolerant than others, the survey suggested. "A small minority, some with religious beliefs (and in our small qualitative sample, particularly Christians), were less likely to compromise their beliefs to accommodate others."

The Skills Funding Agency is holding a series of seminars in January to address the questions highlighted by the survey.

There was also some positive feedback, as the majority of learners rated their experience of their college as "welcoming". Researchers said: "Those learners with visible signs of belief, and those who are open in class, are more likely to report a positive experience, such as being invited to be a student representative."

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