International approach helps curb bullying at Wellington schools
Turning the focus from bullies to bystanders of their behaviour has helped cut bullying in the playground of a Lower Hutt school.
Wilford School in Petone took on the approach, called KiVa, at the beginning of the year, and has since seen the number of cases of bullying reported drop right off.
KiVa, a programme first created in Finland, taught children to recognise the behaviours that supported bullying, and focused on bystanders to bullying, and making them feel safe in telling an adult what was going on, the school's deputy principal Faye Mayo said.
It also taught children what a bully was, and provided support for bullies themselves.
It was being facilitated to 18 schools nationally, five of which were in the Wellington region, through Accent Learning, a subsidiary of Victoria University.
Wilford School, which had not had a big problem with bullying previously, had only had about half a dozen cases reported this year.
What had been really impressive was the decrease in other incidences of bad behaviour.
General playground incidents, not bullying, had dropped from 77 reported in term 1, to 45 in term 2, and 19 in term 3.
"It's about knowing you can get something done about behaviour you've seen that's not a good behaviour choice ... in many schools children don't say anything because it's 'narking'."
KiVa taught children exactly what bullying looked like, and what to do to solve it, without it coming back on the person reporting it.
"The perception is if you tell on a bully, the bully will ramp it up. That's not what happened, it's stopped it."
The approach had helped identify a child at the school who was bullying others, who was otherwise the "nicest kid". He had written about his experience, saying the programme was a "life-changing experience".
Seatoun School had also taken on the programme, and principal John Western said while bullying had not been a major issue in the past, incidents of bullying had dropped.
The school would survey children at the beginning of 2017 to get solid data on how effective the approach had been, Western said, but the caseload for staff who worked with bullies and victims had dropped since the start of this year.
There was very strong support from the school's parent to continue with the programme, Western said.
Education Programme Manager at Accent Learning Deidre Vercauteren said overall, principals were saying they'd had fewer calls from parents about bullying incidents.