Image 4.1A supportive school culture provides safety, encourages open communication, supports a sense of connectedness within the school, and also protects students from the risks of bullying. The quality of relationships between and among staff, students and families is vital in fostering a safe, supportive and engaging school environment. Positive student behaviour should be encouraged and acknowledged at the whole-school level.

Students who are bullied or cyberbullied, students who bully or cyberbully others and students who are both victimised and perpetrators are all more likely to report feeling unsafe at school than those not involved. In contrast, schools that implement strategies that foster student safety have been found to reduce bullying behaviours. For example, if students perceive their friends as trustworthy, caring and helpful, they are less likely to be involved in perpetrating bullying and cyberbullying.

A school’s culture is determined by the school community, including its leaders, educators, students, parents and supporters. Encouraging positive values such as respect, trust and equity are the foundation of the policies and programs which ultimately drive the vision of what the school community aims to achieve. Promoting connectedness to school for students, staff and families, in an environment where they feel emotionally and physically safe, is a key part of developing and maintaining a positive school culture.

Research has found students’ perception of a positive school climate is associated with a reduced likelihood of bullying others. A key component of a supportive school culture is an ethos that bullying is not tolerated, with action taken to actively prevent or respond immediately and effectively to its occurrence. The increased use of technology by students means this ethos and associated actions need to be promoted in both online and offline environments.