Bullying is a worry for some school pupils in the county, with a number saying they feel afraid to go to school because of it, a major survey has revealed.
The findings came as part of Northumberland County Council's Health Related Behaviour Questionnaire (HRBQ), a nationally-recognised survey, which seeks to gauge the health attitudes of pupils from Years 8 and 10.
More than 3,500 secondary pupils at 32 schools across the county agreed to take part, sharing their views on issues such as alcohol, depression and bullying.
Students were given 87 questions to answer anonymously on five themes, covering a range of topics such as drugs and alcohol, diet and exercise, internet safety, and economic wellbeing.
Bullying remains a key worry, with 29 per cent of pupils saying that they 'sometimes' felt afraid to go to school because of it, and six per cent of pupils responded that they 'often' or 'very often' feel afraid of going to school because of bullying. 46 per cent said they felt their school responded ‘quite’ or 'very well' to bullying and 45 per cent said special lessons about bullying were 'quite' or 'very' useful.
The survey revealed that 75 per cent of pupils who responded have chatted online and 15 per cent said they have got a chat message or picture that scared or upset them. Meanwhile, 24 per cent said they have received a hurtful, unwanted or nasty message online and four per cent said someone has used their identity/password to post false or hurtful things online. But 90 per cent said that they have been told how to stay safe while chatting online and 72 per cent said they always follow the advice they have been given.
Asked about their overall happiness, 71 per cent said they were happy, 73 per cent said they would confide their worries to an adult (a further 17 per cent would think about it) and 68 per cent felt confident in saying 'no' to unwanted peer pressure.
On the subject of alcohol, drugs and cigarettes, the survey found that 97 per cent of children in both age groups had never taken drugs (including legal highs); 85 per cent had not consumed alcohol in the previous seven days (53 per cent had never consumed it); and 82 per cent had never smoked a cigarette.
At school, 63 per cent of students felt encouraged to 'make positive decisions'; 61 per cent felt their school was preparing them well for adult life, and 80 per cent felt their work was marked in a way that made it clear where improvements could be made.
The number of pupils engaged more than doubled on the previous survey in 2013, when 15 schools and 1,700 pupils participated, and the findings of the study showed an improvement in most areas, when compared to the previous findings.
The council says the results will be used to identify future improvements to services and focus increasingly limited resources where they will make the biggest difference to the lives of young people across Northumberland.
Northumberland County Councillor Scott Dickinson, chairman of the council’s Health and Wellbeing Board, said: "It's very important for the council's health and social services to hear what young people across the county have to say about these very important issues. We have engaged more than twice as many schools and students this time round than we did in 2013 and have collected a vast amount of data which we will need to analyse further and break down into meaningful insights.
"But the feedback has been overwhelmingly positive and an improvement on what was reported in 2013. We can clearly see that we have some very committed and conscientious secondary pupils in Northumberland, who understand the value of an education, feel appreciated and supported at school, and face challenges that are fairly typical among people in these age groups."
The findings were revealed at the latest monthly meeting of the council’s Health and Wellbeing Board on Thursday.
Coun Dickinson added: "The survey has revealed some very positive attitudes among children in the two age groups - but there are clearly some areas for attention - and we will now look to use this data to see how services can be improved and resources targeted for the benefit of pupils. The survey is a long-term commitment to understand the needs and concerns of pupils in Northumberland. We intend to repeat the survey every two years and attract even more participants in 2017. My thanks go to every school and student who took part."
A summary report of the Health Related Behaviour Questionnaire, completed in December 2015, can be viewed online. The HRBQ is a national non-mandatory survey developed by the Schools Health Education Unit (SHEU).