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School Bullying: Programmes That Work


School Bullying: Programmes That Work

In light of the two-day summit on school violence, which finishes in Wellington today, it’s important to highlight that effective solutions already exist, and that there’s a need for greater public awareness of their existence and increased funding support. Two examples of well established programmes with demonstrated effectiveness at reducing violence are the Cool Schools Peer Mediation and The Roots of Empathy. Both are offered by the Peace Foundation and both are delivered to schools with funding from government ministries.

What makes these programmes exceptional? For one thing they use an inclusive, pro-active school and community based approach. These are important priorities according to the OCC (Office of the Children’s’ Commissioner) whose main message advocates “changing the whole culture of a school” - rather than just targeting individual bullies. Another important feature of both programmes is that children’s day- to-day experiences are the focus. Both Cool Schools and Roots of Empathy provide hands-on opportunities for gaining empathy, caring communication and conflict resolution skills, as well as reducing aggression.

Marion Hancock, National Manager for Roots of Empathy quotes statistics showing that out of 30 schools where the programme was adopted last year, 90% of teachers reported reduced bullying, and 100% of principals and parents were very satisfied with their participation. In the words of Tina Verdouw, Principal of Rongomai School in south Auckland, “we found that we eliminated violence from our school when we used the Cool Schools Peer Mediation Programme, and when we introduced the Roots of Empathy the children actually became gentle and responsive. Our senior students now act as a role model and keep the playground a safe and caring haven for all the children”.

Still, getting these programmes where they’re needed comes down to dollars and ‘sense’. When asked about the realities of demand vs. supply, Christina Barruel, Cool Schools National Manager states that: “we have a long list of schools waiting for the training in the next funded contract period for July 2009”. She also says that “the demand for the programme far exceeds the funding supply”. The Peace Foundation continues to get the message out to schools, families and communities that education is the way forward. The hope is that the message will be more fully heard and supported in a way that reflects our nation’s commitment to its children.


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