A new national database is being developed by the Government to prevent bullying in schools.

Primary and secondary schools will be obliged to return information to a database around the key issues pupils are facing when it comes to being bullied.

The database is a key part of a new action plan on bullying which has been announced by the Department of Education.

''It will for the first time give us an appreciation of the issues that are being raised in our schools, how they are being handled and indeed what measures we can introduce to support schools going forward,'' said Minister for Education Norma Foley.

The data will be anonymised and officials say the data will help address cyberbullying, racism, gender identity bullying and sexual harassment issues in schools.

The initiative has been welcomed by the Children's Ombudsman.

''Hopefully within two to three years we will have a real understanding of what the issues of bullying are, and how they breakdown into different issues and that will in turn allow us to create a better support for the schools and the children involved,'' said Dr Niall Muldoon, Ombudsman for Children.

The action plan - called Cineáltas, the Irish word for kindness - is the first major update to the previous government policy on bullying published in 2013 and has been described as a 'significant milestone plan'' by Minister Foley.

''We will ensure that there is a national overall picture of how it [bullying] is being handled throughout the country and this will be very useful to us. Schools will be invited to upload information and it will become part of the national database,'' she said.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Minister Foley said it was important to have a "clear understanding" of the issues in schools.

"For the first time we name very specifically issues that have been identified, whether it's cyber-bullying, gender-based bullying, sexual harassment, racism, any experience that excludes a child or young person," she said.

"Having the national database means that we will identify what the issues are and we will be then able to put in place the correct mechanisms to tackle and address these issues."

Minister Foley said a national perspective on the issues is needed, and they need to cultivate "a whole-school approach" to tackling bullying.

She said a "student voice" department is being set up within the Department of Education so that students voices "will be at the centre of all that we do".

€6 million was made available in the Budget for "many of these initiatives", she added.

School support teams will be available to help students who are experiencing bullying and staff will be trained as part of the new action plan.

The views of 170 children and young people, including those with special needs, were sought to combat bullying.

Traveller and Roma children, children from Ukraine and refugees also participated in the consultation process.

Liam Raeside, 13, from Kingswood Community College in Dublin was among those who took part.

''We were mainly drawing and writing down our ideas instead of talking about them. I just really enjoyed it because we could finally be heard,'' he told RTÉ News.

Schools will be expected to identify emerging trends and consider what measures can be taken to combat bullying, which pupils say is a big step forward.

This Action Plan has been developed by the Department of Education in collaboration with a dedicated Steering Committee led by Dr Noel Purdy of Stranmillis University College in Belfast.

A special Cineáltas flag for schools will also be developed to prevent and address bullying.