The Western Australian Child Health Survey found that parents and teachers identified 11% of students in Western Australian primary and secondary schools as being bullied in the previous six months (one in nine students). Given bullying often occurs out of sight of adults, the actual number of students who are bullied is likely to be higher.
International and national research has found that bullying can be reduced and managed in the school setting. However, while many schools in WA engage in efforts to address bullying, communication with schools during a 1999 formative study suggests many are unsure of what action to take or whether strategies being used are effective. A need exists to evaluate the effectiveness of bullying prevention strategies so that schools can take action with confidence.
The Friendly Schools Bullying Intervention Project assessed the effectiveness of a whole-school intervention aimed at preventing, reducing and managing bullying in the primary school setting. This project was evaluated by following approximately 2000 students, their teachers and parents across Years 4 and 5 during 2000 and 2001.
The two year classroom and whole-school intervention was found to be effective in reducing self-reported bullying behaviours. For students who were bullied ‘lots of times’ at the start of the program those who received the Friendly Schools intervention were up to five times less likely to be bullied in that way following the intervention compared with those students who did not receive the intervention. Similarly, those students who were bullied ‘sometimes’ at the start of the program and received the Friendly Schools intervention, were three times less likely to be bullied at the end of the program than those students who did not receive the program.
The Friendly Schools Project has contributed greatly to our understanding of bullying behaviours and whole-school strategies designed to reduce their prevalence. Given the significant reductions in bullying behaviours seen in schools that received the Friendly Schools intervention, this project has demonstrated its worth in improving the mental health of young Western Australian children.
The resources developed in this project have been combined with resources from the Child Health Promotion Research Centre’s other bullying prevention resources to create ‘Friendly Schools Plus’. For more information or to purchase these resources, please contact STEPS on (08) 9373 2203.
Professor Donna Cross
Associate Professor Marg Hall
Curtin University, Associate Professor Clare Roberts
Dr Deidre Young
Canterbury District Health Board, Christchurch, New Zealand, Dr Greg Hamilton