Bullying prevention

Every educator knows that student bullying has a significant negative long-term impact on the students involved, and preventing and addressing student bullying in our schools is an ongoing focus and commitment.

Research highlights that school-based interventions result in long-lasting and meaningful benefits and among these is open and timely discussion on bullying itself along with the realisation of the power each person has in reducing bullying behaviours.

Establishing preventative strategies that target key environments in which bullying is known to occur – including the classroom and the playground – is an important means of developing a positive school climate.

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 behaviour has occurred.

Preventative strategies

Research indicates the following preventative strategies are effective in reducing bullying behaviours in the classroom:

  • whole-school approach
  • school-wide anti-bullying policy, such as the NSW Anti-bullying Plan
  • classroom management and classroom rules
  • the role of the teacher and their response to bullying
  • positive relationships between teachers and students
  • school-based anti-bullying programs with high levels of playground supervision
  • promoting a culture of reporting bullying
  • partnering with parents and carers
  • anti-bullying content in the classroom
  • social and emotional learning
  • promoting upstander behaviour
  • teacher support and professional development
  • effective implementation and evaluation.

Responsive strategies

Schools are aware of the potentially harmful effects of bullying, including online bullying (cyberbullying) on young people and take reports of bullying seriously. All schools should incorporate preventative bullying approaches and strategies in their school. They should also utilise a range of responsive strategies when bullying behaviour does occur. These may include:

  • direct sanctions: verbal reprimands, meetings with parents, temporary removals from class, withdrawal of privileges, detentions, and, in some serious cases, suspension.
  • restorative practices
  • mediation
  • support group method
  • the method of shared concern.

To find out more about the above strategies, read the Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation literature review on effective anti-bullying interventions in schools. The literature review provided the evidence base for the department’s anti-bullying strategy at the time and is still a widely accessed resource.

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

Cross, D, Shaw, T, Hearn, L, Epstein, M, Monks, H, Lester, L & Thomas, L. (2009). Australian covert bullying prevalence study (ACBPS), Child Health Promotion Research Centre, Edith Cowan University, Perth.

Saarento, S, Karna, A, Hodges, E & Salmivalli, C. (2013). ‘Student-, classroom-, and school-level risk factors for victimisation’, Journal of School Psychology, vol. 51, no. 3, pp. 421-434.

Salmivalli, C. (2014). ‘Participant roles in bullying: How can peer bystanders be utilized in interventions?’, Theory into Practice, vol. 53, no. 4, pp. 286-292.

Ttofi, M & 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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