Visible leadership inspires positive school communities. School leaders work to establish approaches and procedures that promote wellbeing and foster a supportive school climate in which bullying is less likely to occur.
The Melbourne Declaration on Educational Goals for Young Australians (2008) states, ‘Schools play a vital role in promoting the intellectual, physical, social, emotional, moral, spiritual and aesthetic development and wellbeing of young Australians, and in ensuring the nation’s ongoing economic prosperity and social cohesion. Schools share this responsibility with students, parents, carers, families, the community, business and other education and training providers.’
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. These include:
- 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? (PDF 4741.34KB).