26 schools across South Australia have been trialling a new approach to tackling bullying in primary schools, as part of the Government’s commitment to back evidence-based approaches to address bullying in schools.
The new primary school version of the PEACE Pack, developed by Flinders University and supported by the Breakthrough Mental Health Foundation, complements the secondary school resource that has successfully reduced bullying in high schools for more than a decade.
The pilot, which wraps up at the end of Term 3, is giving teachers and leaders the opportunity to apply this new approach and plan lessons that teach students skills in dealing with all types of bullying, including cyber bullying.
Lessons focus on conflict resolution, relationship-building and decision-making among bullying perpetrators and bystanders, as well as building the coping skills of students who may experience bullying.
The program offers intensive professional development for teachers, student wellbeing leaders and parents, as well as a comprehensive anti-bullying curriculum for students.
Education Minister John Gardner said the pilot was an important part of the Government’s commitment to address bullying in schools.
“The number of children and young people experiencing bullying on a regular basis is concerning, and we must do everything we can to stamp it out at the earliest opportunity” said Minister Gardner.
“Our students deserve to undertake their studies in a safe and nurturing educational environment, free from harassment, discrimination and bullying.
“The PEACE Pack approach helps children to stop bullying by teaching them to recognise when bullying is taking place, and to improve their skills in managing relationships and conflict.
“Early feedback from schools has been positive. They are reporting that children taking part in the pilot are more able to recognise and deal with bullying.
“It’s great to see South Australian researchers leading the way, producing high-quality resources tailored to address key issues facing our schools.”
The program has been developed by Flinders University Professor Phillip Slee who, along with colleague Grace Skrzypiec, has been working with pilot schools to see the impact of these resources and hear from teachers about what works in the classroom.
“The content of the PEACE Pack aligns with the Australian curriculum and has been developed with teachers, for teachers, to deliver in the classroom,” said Professor Slee.
“Successful interventions to reduce school bullying and support the wellbeing of students are community focused, and teachers are absolutely central to the solution.
“Its effectiveness in the classroom is assessed by both students and teachers.
“Translated versions of the PEACE Pack are also being used internationally, further supporting Australia’s evidence base regarding the program’s effectiveness.”
Brighton Primary School is one of a cluster of Western suburbs schools involved in the pilot, which is already having a positive impact.
A tailored eight lesson plan is being rolled out across the school’s Year 5 classes with a heavy focus on teaching what bullying is, as well as coping strategies to promote wellbeing and build resilience.
The school is looking at how it can incorporate PEACE Pack in a whole-of-school approach from next year, including parent training opportunities to ensure anti-bullying measures are being reinforced at home as well as the classroom.
Brighton High School has already been implementing the approach for four years and has seen bullying incidents more than halved over this time.
Brighton Primary School Wellbeing Leader Renee Book said there is a lot of excitement among both teachers and students.
“The students are benefiting from a much clearer understanding of what bullying is and the emotions that go along with it, so they’re learning how to recognise it and address it individually and among their peer group,” said Ms Book.
“Teachers are enjoying the explicit teaching elements and love that it promotes wellbeing and resilience.
“We’re looking forward to evaluating the outcomes of the pilot and using the findings to inform the development of our whole school approach.”
The PEACE Pack is founded on the principles of Preparation (P), Education (E), Action (A), Coping (C) and Evaluation (E).
To date, 36 schools have utilised the PEACE Pack and the program has been translated and used by 300 schools in Greece, 11 schools in Malta and three schools in Japan. The pack will soon be translated and implemented in more than 22 classes in Italy.
The outcomes of the South Australian pilot will be evaluated, informing the development of a broad anti-bullying strategy and new resources that will be made available to all schools for the 2019 school year.