HOW DOES THE FRIENDLY SCHOOLS INITIATIVE WORK?
What are the goals of Friendly Schools implementation?
Schools throughout Australia and worldwide are increasingly recognising the need to address bullying, resilience, social skills and self-esteem. The Friendly Schools initiative aims to help school communities to build social and emotional skills and prevent bullying. The initiative includes a review of school bullying policy and activities to prevent or reduce bullying, as well as strategies to help students cope with bullying and develop social skills and resiliency factors.
Some of the goals of the implementation of Friendly Schools include:
- providing all students opportunities to develop and practise social skills through classroom learning activities
- creating a positive social environment within our schools that actively discourages bullying
- modifying the school grounds and supervision during morning and lunch breaks to discourage bullying
- encouraging all staff, students and parents to treat all school community members with respect and tolerance
- implementing a clear and consistent approach to managing reported bullying incidents
- providing parents with resources and strategies to help communicate more effectively with their children about bullying
Why does Friendly Schools use a whole-school approach?
Bullying touches almost everyone’s life. It is widespread and harmful – but it is also preventable. As we learn more about its lasting effects, it is becoming an issue of growing concern to practitioners, parents and researchers. Every one of us has the right to feel safe, secure, accepted and valued, and the responsibility to take action to ensure others feel the same.
Friendly Schools concurs with other current research demonstrating that a whole-school approach is essential to achieving positive change in bullying. The whole-school approach builds awareness at all levels of the school’s community, enabling the development of common goals and a shared understanding. This common understanding forms the basis for the school community to identify, develop and engage in appropriate and consistent strategies to deal with bullying.
Friendly Schools is designed to help all members of the school community, including teachers, school leaders, students, parents and families, by increasing awareness of bullying to develop a common perception of need and motivation for positive action to reduce bullying and improve social relationships.
A whole-school response:
- counters the view that bullying is an inevitable part of school life, challenging the attitudes of the school community and inviting it to examine its own social behaviour and ethos
- moves toward prevention and promotion instead of treatment and crisis-management
- opens discussion at all levels of the school community, helping to create a supportive ethos and to break down the culture of secrecy surrounding bullying
- involves the whole-school community in expressing and reinforcing the unacceptability of bullying behaviour, thus providing students with a consistent message
What is known from the research about making the initiative work?
- There must be a commitment on the part of administrators, teachers, support staff, parents and students. It is also extremely important to have support and encouragement from school leaders who are kept apprised of plans and processes occurring in the school.
- The framework must engage a whole-school community.
- Friendly Schools initiatives are most effective when there is a coordinating group with member representatives of the whole-school community.
- A coordinator is appointed and this person is allocated time and resources to effectively oversee that coordinating group.
- Students must be involved purposefully and meaningfully in creating school culture.
- Many schools already have existing policies and programs to address bullying and create friendly and safe schools. Schools should begin planning by reviewing their current policies and practices and define their steps for improvement from there.
- The implementation of the Friendly Schools initiative will look different in individual schools, as this initiative is designed to suit the unique context of each school.
- Changing the social norms in attitudes and climate within a school takes time and commitment.
- Schools need to celebrate and promote their successes as well as work towards improvement.
Friendly Schools research showed it was not one single ingenious thing that made a difference, but the sum of many small steps.