Bullying has been an unavoidable if nasty part of school life for far too long, while a solution seemed intractable, a potential remedy has been found by Flinders University researchers and what’s more it seems to work across cultures.
A Flinders University program to reduce bullying in the schoolyard and promote wellbeing among children has halved the incidents of bullying at Brighton Secondary School and is having a similar impact in schools across the world.
This is according to independent evaluations conducted in Australia, Greece, Italy, Malta and Japan.
The PEACE Pack, pioneered by Professor Phillip Slee and Dr Grace Skrzypiec from Flinders University in 2001, provides a series of school-based strategies to provide safe learning and play spaces for students and includes an eight-week anti-bullying intervention delivered by classroom teachers.
It was introduced to Brighton Secondary School in 2014 to address an ‘average level of bullying’, according to Professor Phillip Slee.
“Four years ago the level of bullying at Brighton was not dissimilar to the majority of other secondary schools in Australia and the United States, and was considered to be ‘middle of the road’ in terms of peer aggression,” says Professor Slee.
“Now the level of reported bullying is as low as 5%, which puts Brighton Secondary School in the lowest category for schoolyard bullying, and which is a wonderful achievement for the school and the PEACE Pack program.”
Underpinning the PEACE Pack is a strong emphasis on building the productive coping skills of the victims of bullying and involving students in a review of their own schoolyard experiences.
Unlike other anti-bullying programs, the PEACE Pack takes a whole-of-school approach and focusses on relationship-building and decision-making among bullying perpetrators as well as bystanders, whose own wellness is considered to be integral to the ‘bullying solution’.
Importantly, the PEACE Pack includes particular tools to support young people with special needs who may be experiencing bullying.
Designed to address all forms of bullying, including physical bullying, verbal bullying, exclusion bullying and cyber-bullying, the PEACE Pack offers intensive professional development for teachers, school counsellors and parents and a comprehensive anti-bullying curriculum for students.
A key feature of the program is the the nomination of an anti-bullying ‘champion’, a person of authority who is responsible for driving anti-bullying education and culture.
“The Peace Pack has had a demonstrable and positive impact on the coping skills of our students who have or are continuing to experience bullying,” says Brighton Secondary School Principal, Ms Olivia O’Neill.
“We have signed on for a fifth year of the PEACE Pack because of the improvements to our schoolyard culture and because we want to achieve zero bullying on campus.”
Current data on bullying suggests that one in five Australian school students is bullied once a week or more and that cyber-bullying is associated with greater anxiety and depression than ‘traditional’ schoolyard bullying.
According to Professor Slee, overseas statistics tell a similar story.
“Bullying in schools is a universal issue that requires leadership, commitment and engagement from the entire school community,” Professor Slee says.
“Brighton Secondary School has shown this leadership and proven that endemic issues such as bullying can be significantly stemmed if addressed in an open and direct manner.
“We are delighted that the PEACE Pack is achieving significant and sustained reductions in bullying across multiple schools in multiple cultures and we are now focused on rolling our program out in the United States and Italy early this year,” says Professor Slee.
To date, thirty-six Australian schools have utilised the PEACE Pack and the program is also currently used by 150 schools in Greece, eights schools in Malta, and six schools in Japan.
Learnings from the PEACE Pack have been distilled in a new book by Professor Phillip Slee and Dr Grace Skrzypiec which is available now: Slee P, Skrzypiec G and Cefai C (2017). Child and Adolescent Wellbeing and Violence Prevention in Schools. Routledge, London.
About the PEACE Pack
The PEACE Pack program is suitable for children aged five to 18 years.
Since 2001 it has provided primary and secondary schools with a framework through which they can adequately address school bullying and violence.
It is founded on the following principles:
P – Preparation: preparation and consideration of the nature of bullying E – Education: education and understanding of the issues
A – Action: action taken and strategies developed to reduce bullying C – Coping: coping strategies for staff, students and parents
E – Evaluation: evaluation, review and celebration of the program
About Professor Phillip Slee and Dr Grace Skrzypiec
Professor Slee and Dr Skrzypiec are co-Directors of the Research Centre for Student Wellbeing and Prevention of Violence (SWAPv) at Flinders University.
They collaborate with international scholars on the prevention of violence in educational settings and are currently working with the University of Bologna and the University of Thessaly on anti-bullying initiatives in Italy and Greece, respectively.
Professor Slee is a trained teacher and registered psychologist with research interests in child and adolescent mental health and the policy implications of childhood bullying and aggression.
Dr Skrzypiec is also an experienced teacher and psychologist and the recipient of the 2014
Vice-Chancellor’s Award for Early Career Research in recognition of her outstanding contribution to research on peer aggression, bullying, and other antisocial behaviour.
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