Student voice

Educators should actively seek student input into planning and decision making processes, and create genuine opportunities for students to express their ideas and concerns.

Promoting and supporting students to have a voice in school decision-making helps develop a sense of belonging and ownership and an inclusive school culture.

Creating opportunities for student voice and participation

All students can contribute different perspectives and provide valuable information for school planning for preventing and responding to bullying.

It is important to create different opportunities for students to speak, be heard and actively contribute to decisions that affect them. Encourage all students to:

  • participate in class and school committees, meetings, student action teams, student representative councils and school parliaments.
  • engage in decisions about teaching, learning, class rules and behavioural expectations.
  • participate in peer support, peer mediation, buddying, mentoring and coaching programs.
  • participate in community engagement activities that promote connectedness between the school and wider community.
  • undertake research and implement projects to change and improve aspects of school operations, culture, environment and practices.
  • develop and share their opinions about current issues and engage in debate and discussion of those issues.

Students could also be encouraged to undertake leadership roles within the school such as class leader, prefects, school captains and sports captains.

Student leaders play a central role in creating a positive school environment in which bullying is not accepted. Engage the experience and status of student leaders through:

  • creating student leadership roles that focus on student wellbeing.
  • encouraging students to participate in activities that build empathy with others.
  • fostering peer support and mentoring programs by older students for younger students.

From bystanders to upstanders

Bullying often happens in the presence of witnesses (or bystanders) who can play a key role in influencing bullying behaviour. Four distinct bystander roles have been identified:

  • reinforcer - encourages the bullying by laughing and cheering
  • assistant - actively supports the bullying by doing things such as blocking exits
  • outsider - silent observation that could be interpreted as approval
  • defender - active support for the person being bullied, also called upstander.

Bystanders contribute to the problem - upstanders can stop the problem.

Research shows that others speaking out or taking action can stop bullying behaviour. Becoming an upstander is about moving from silence to action - doing something that prevents or reduces the observed bullying or coming to the aid of another child who is being bullied.

If it is safe to do so, students can become upstanders by:

  • speaking out and telling the bully to stop
  • distracting the bully by refocusing attention away from the person being bullied
  • telling a teacher who can help.

The anti-bullying resource Bystander to upstander (PDF 436.9KB) contains evidence-based activities for Years 5-8. Each activity is designed to be co-delivered by students and teachers to raise awareness, build skills and reduce bullying behaviour.

Some of this content has been adapted and reproduced with permission from Bullying. No Way!

More resources

The Friendly Schools Student CyberLeader resource is designed to help build the self-efficacy of students to show leadership in their school and with their peers by encouraging and enabling other young people to use technology in positive ways.

The Bullying. No Way! website has the following ideas to support student voice.

Our special superpower is a short animated video designed to help primary aged students discuss and learn how to be a safe and supportive bystander.

Roles that kids play explores some safe and supportive actions that bystanders can take to stop or reduce bullying.

Active bystander lesson plans explores the importance of active bystanders (upstanders). Materials are available for early primary, lower primary, lower secondary and senior secondary students.

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