Bullying is less likely to occur in an inclusive school culture that does not tolerate aggressive and disrespectful behaviour and actively promotes supportive and caring relationships.
This can be achieved by:
- recognising and valuing the role and contribution of staff, students and families in building and sustaining school connectedness
- respecting the diversity of the school community and implementing proactive strategies to build a cohesive and culturally safe school for all students*
- teaching, modelling and promoting values and behaviours that create and maintain supportive and safe learning environments, such as explicitly teaching social and emotional skills**
- fostering and maintaining positive, caring and respectful relationships among students and staff and between school and home
- engaging in professional learning to build staff capacity for preventing and responding to bullying behaviour
- having a shared understanding across the school community of what bullying is, and understanding how to prevent and respond to bullying behaviour
- promoting safe student upstander behaviour.
A strong focus on the explicit teaching of pro-social skills across the curriculum such as effective communication, relationship building, problem-solving and conflict resolution, helps develop skills to counter bullying. It also promotes a positive school culture that does not support aggressive or unfriendly behaviour, such as bullying.
A number of studies have shown that increased social and emotional competence is related to reductions in a variety of problem behaviours including bullying (Smith & Low 2013).
Social Emotional Learning programs can prevent bullying by helping students to develop skills in empathy, emotion management, social problem solving and social competence, all of which ‘can help orient youth toward more pro-social peer interaction and interpersonal problem solving, and provide students with strategies for coping effectively with peer challenges’ (Smith & Low 2013, p. 284).
Examples of international Social Emotional Learning programs include the United States Collaborative for Academic, Social and Emotional Learning (CASEL), which promotes the adoption of such programs in United States schools and produces a guide that identifies and rates evidence-based programs.
Visit the personal and social capabilities section of the Australian curriculum website.
* Examples of diversity within the student population include Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students, students with disabilities and students with language backgrounds other than English. It also includes students from communities with low socio-economic status, students from rural and remote areas, refugees, those at risk of disengaging from school and students who can be disadvantaged by various forms of gender stereotyping. Inclusion of all students can be promoted and demonstrated by including student and parent voices in decision-making processes. Read more in the Bias-based bullying for educators fact sheet (PDF 212.69KB).
** Engaging students in activities that develop and encourage pro-social values such as responsibility, fairness, empathy and justice helps expand their understanding, improves the quality of social interactions with others and reduces bullying behaviour.
Wellbeing contributes significantly to the learning and life outcomes of children and young people. Wellbeing is associated with better student outcomes from academic achievement to better mental health, and making responsible life choices.
Effective leadership is integral to the safety and wellbeing of the entire school community and includes:
- developing the school’s vision and values, building on existing strengths, to enhance student learning and sustain the safety and wellbeing of the whole school community
- actively seeking and incorporating students’ perspectives about safety and wellbeing in order to promote positive learning outcomes
- communicating the priorities for student learning, safety and wellbeing and encourage collaborative partnerships to enact the school’s vision and values
- collaboratively developing whole school policies, plans and structures for protecting the safety and promoting the wellbeing of staff, students, and families
- regularly monitoring and reviewing school capacity to address the safety and wellbeing of the whole school community in order to identify areas of strength and those requiring improvement.
Preventing and effectively responding to student bullying behaviour requires consistent implementation of policies and procedures and widely communicated anti-bullying strategies and practices, such as having a well-defined process for parents and students to confidentially report bullying, and a clear plan of action for staff to follow when bullying is observed or reported.
Identifying 'at risk' students and intervening before an issue emerges or escalates helps to build and maintain a safe environment. Early intervention includes creating and implementing skill development for students identified as being at risk of social relationship difficulties, and for students who have previously experienced bullying or engaged in bullying behaviour.
Other preventative actions include establishing clear, whole-school behavioural expectations and utilising existing school teams (such as the learning and support team, student wellbeing team and/or student action teams) to oversee school safety and wellbeing initiatives by conducting regular classroom and playground reviews to determine what behaviours are occurring and recognising potential issues.
Recent research has identified several responsive approaches that are effective in reducing bullying in schools.
- direct sanctions
- restorative practice
- Support Group Method
- Method of Shared Concern (also called Pikas Method).
An overview of these preventative and responsive approaches, their use in Australian schools and their effectiveness in addressing bullying can be found in the 2017 literature review conducted by the Centre for Education Statistics and Evaluation (CESE), Anti-bullying interventions in schools - what works?