Whole-school approach to bullying
Bullying is less likely to occur in a caring, respectful and supportive teaching and learning community.
Elements that contribute to a planned whole-school approach
A school that engages their whole school community to address the issue of bullying is much more likely to succeed in preventing bullying than a school using single-factor interventions only. A whole-school approach to preventing and responding to bullying should be based on research and evidence-based practice, effective pedagogy and strong partnerships.
The following five evidence-based elements, based on the Australian Student Wellbeing Framework help schools to implement a planned whole-school approach to promote student safety and wellbeing and effectively address bullying behaviour.
Bullying is less likely to occur in a positive environment. Principals and school leaders play an active role in building a positive learning environment where the whole school community feels included, connected, safe and respected.
Bullying is less likely in a culture that promotes inclusion. All members of the school community are active participants in building a welcoming school culture that values diversity, and fosters positive, respectful relationships.
Incorporating student voice in decision-making is a key contributor to a positive school culture. Students are less likely to engage in bullying behaviour when they feel valued. Students are active participants in their own learning and wellbeing, feel connected and use their social and emotional skills to be respectful, resilient and safe.
Bullying is a whole of community issue which requires a whole of community response. Effective schools have high levels of parental and community involvement, which is strongly related to positive student behaviour. Families and communities collaborate as partners with the school to support student learning, safety and wellbeing.
Actively involving staff, students and families in promoting positive behaviour reduces bullying behaviour. School staff, students and families share and cultivate an understanding of wellbeing and support for positive behaviour and how this reinforces effective teaching and learning.
Bias based bullying
Successful anti-bullying interventions
Anti-bullying programs reduce bullying behaviours by an average of 20–23 per cent. Evidence indicates that successful anti-bullying interventions:
- take a holistic, whole-school approach
- include educational content that supports students to develop social and emotional competencies, and learn appropriate ways to respond to bullying behaviours
- provide support and professional development to teachers and other school staff on how best to maintain a positive school climate
- ensure systematic program implementation and evaluation
The approaches that schools take to counter bullying can be classified as either ‘preventative’ or ‘responsive’. Preventative approaches aim to stop bullying from occurring in the first place, while responsive approaches are the steps taken to resolve the issue after bullying has occurred. The two approaches are not entirely distinct: responsive approaches should also aim, for example, to prevent bullying behaviours from occurring again in future (CESE, 2017).
A wide range of frameworks, strategies, resources and programs which aim to counter bullying is available to schools. Some of these have a strong theoretical basis, solid evidence and are designed for sustainable implementation in schools. Others lack any theory or evidence and do not align with the educational context.
Schools want to know the approach they select will work in their school. An appropriate anti-bullying approach is one that matches your identified goals and needs and can be implemented in your school context on a sustainable basis.
STEPS is a decision-making tool to help schools determine whether a particular resource or approach is evidence-based, sustainable and appropriate for addressing the identified needs of the school.
For more information visit Bullying No Way's steps to prevent bullying.
Information about this resource
This resource supports schools to implement a planned whole-school approach to student safety and wellbeing and effectively address bullying behaviour.
This resource supports teachers and school staff understand:
Bullying is less likely to occur in a positive environment
Bullying is less likely in a culture that promotes inclusion
Incorporating student voice in decision-making is a key contributor to a positive school culture
Preventing and responding to bullying behaviour is a shared responsibility between all staff, students, families and the wider society
Actively involving staff, students and families in promoting positive behaviour reduces bullying behaviour
How to implement evidence-based, sustainable and appropriate decision making when considering an approach to manage bullying.
This resource addresses a need identified in the three key areas of practice, support and ongoing improvement. This provides schools and teachers with supports and resources to:
Implement teaching and behaviour management approaches and practices aimed at building positive behaviours and learning environments
Reduce the occurrence of challenging and unsafe behaviours through proactive and preventive approaches
Provide better options for managing challenging behaviours when they do occur.
School leaders and teachers across all school settings.
This resource can be used without assistance, as a stand-alone resource and/or linked to professional learning. Optional support is available through the Australian Students Wellbeing Framework and the Bullying. No Way! step’s framework.
All students P-12.
When to use
When schools are seeking to encourage a caring, respectful and supportive teaching and learning community and reduce the likelihood of bullying occurring and reoccurring.
Can be used at any time in the school year.
System priorities and/or needs
This resource aligns with:
- the Premier’s Priorities to improve outcomes in literacy and numeracy and HSC attainment
- Our Plan for NSW Public Education’s direction and priorities of strengthening student wellbeing and development and advancing equitable outcomes, opportunities and experiences
- need identified by Delivery Support to build teacher capacity in understanding and addressing bullying.
- Learning domain – Wellbeing (Caring for students, A planned approach to wellbeing, Individual learning needs, Behaviour).
- Leading domain: Educational leadership (Instructional leadership, High expectations culture, Community engagement) and School planning, implementation and reporting (Continuous improvement, School plan, Annual report).
- The Alice Springs (Mparntwe) Education Declaration 2019
- Disability Standards for Education 2005
- NESA syllabus documents – general capabilities: Personal and social capabilities
- Australian Professional Standards for Teachers
- Standard 4, particularly 4.1, 4.3, 4.4, 4.5
- Australian Student Wellbeing Framework
- Wellbeing Framework for schools - behaviour, discipline and character education, effective Leadership, school planning
- Family-School Partnerships Framework
- Achieving School Excellence in Wellbeing and Inclusion
- Student Behaviour Policy
- Anti-bullying interventions in schools-what works?
- Health, Safety and Staff Wellbeing Directorate risk management - student behaviour resources (internal only)
- Supported online learning courses: Personalised learning, Understanding and supporting behaviour and Supporting student wellbeing and mental health
- The National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence (NDA) resources
- Bullying No Way's steps to preventing bullying
- The eSafety Commissioner website.
Consulted with: The information in this resource was developed as part of the NSW Government’s Anti-Bullying Strategy (2017-2020) in consultation with world-leading academic expert advisors Professor Donna Cross, Professor Rosemary Johnston, and Professor Ian Hickie. The Advocate for Children and Young People assisted with consultation with students.
The Department partnered with the NSW Association of Independent Schools, Catholic Schools NSW, eSafety Commissioner, Bullying No Way!, and the Kids Helpline in consultation with principal and parent groups to create an evidence-based resource package for students, teachers, parents and carers to identify, prevent and respond effectively to student bullying behaviours.
Professor Donna Cross, Professor Rosemary Johnston, and Professor Ian Hickie reviewed and endorsed all the materials for the website.
Reviewed by: Behaviour Services
Last updated: January 2024
Ansary, N, Elias, M, Greene, M & Green, S. (2015). Guidance for schools selecting antibullying approaches: Translating evidence-based strategies to contemporary implementation realities, Educational Researcher, vol. 44, no. 1, pp. 27-36.
Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation. (2017). Anti-bullying interventions in schools - what works? Literature review. Department of Education. https://education.nsw.gov.au/about-us/educational-data/cese/publications/literature-reviews/anti-bullying-interventions-in-schools
Rigby, K and Johnson, K. (2016). The prevalence and effectiveness of anti-bullying strategies employed in Australian schools, University of South Australia, Adelaide.
Sairanen, L and Pfeffer, K. (2011). Self-reported handling of bullying among junior high school teachers in Finland, School Psychology International, vol. 32, no. 3, pp. 330-344.
Smith, B & Low, S. (2013) The role of social-emotional learning in ullying prevention efforts, Theory Into Practice, vol. 52, no. 4, p. 280-287
Thompson, F and Smith, P. (2011). The use and effectiveness of antibullying strategies in schools, research report.
Ttofi, M and Farrington, D. (2011). Effectiveness of school-based programs to reduce bullying: A systematic and meta-analytic review, Journal of Experimental Criminology, vol. 7, no. 1, pp. 27-56.
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