School audits and goal setting
A comprehensive picture of what is happening in the school is essential for planning appropriate prevention and response strategies.
Many educational authorities in Australia have recommended audit tools and surveys for schools.
The collected information then requires careful analysis to provide the basis for setting goals and making plans for your school.
Purpose of school audits
Confidential student surveys
Goal setting for your school
Purpose of school audits
School audits involve asking everyone in the school community about their experiences and thoughts related to bullying, as well as safety and wellbeing. School audits help schools:
- find out what is happening
- plan out where to target resources and time
- monitor the effect of the school's strategies over time
- measure the effectiveness of prevention and responses
- raise the school community's awareness about bullying
- provide a benchmark for measuring progress
- identify what you want to achieve in your school
- involve all stakeholders in discussion about the need for change
- select the most appropriate program
- involve the school community in developing a clear plan for preventing and responding to bullying.
Options for school audits include:
School Audit Tool. This audit tool helps schools to make informed judgments about how well they have implemented effective practices to create and maintain a safe and supportive learning environment. Schools can track their results online.
MindMatters school staff survey is available for those who register to become Action leaders in the school.
Oregon School Safety Survey v 2.0 by Sprague, Colvin, Irvin (1995, 2005) provides a summary of risk factors and protective factors that can be useful in determining training and support needs related to school safety and violence prevention. Download the survey under the heading 'File' at the link provided.
- Locally-developed audits and surveys (see below).
If your educational authority requires a specified audit tool or survey, the content and design will be established by the authority.
Schools may also wish to run their own processes and surveys to get additional local data to inform their decisions.
In designing local data collection, it is important to be aware that bullying is a complex social issue with many dimensions.
The way you think about bullying will affect the kind of questions you ask students and staff, and thus the information the answers will reveal. Read more about the various
perspectives on bullying.
Questions you may wish to investigate with students, staff and parents include:
- Does the overall school climate support or prevent bullying?
- Do students regard school discipline as strict but fair?
- Do students (and parents/carers) feel supported and respected by teachers, and are they willing to seek help for bullying?
- Do adults in the school community provide a model of respectful behaviour for students?
- Do staff feel supported by the school leadership in their management of bullying incidents?
- Are students being taught how to act as positive and safe bystanders in the early prevention of bullying?
- What anti-bullying, positive behaviour or student wellbeing approaches does the school currently use? Are current programs addressing the need of all student groups, administrators and teachers, parents and carers? If not, can they be altered to better meet the range of needs?
- Who is being bullied? What groups are being identified as targets? For example, is most of the bullying related to age, gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, ability, and so on?
What types of bullying are happening? For example, is bullying predominantly verbal, physical and/or social/excluding; is it mainly face-to-face and/or online; is it generally overt or often covert (hidden)?
- When and where is bullying taking place? (Bullying can be hidden or difficult to identify by those observing, so investigation with students is important).
- Which students are most likely to be doing the bullying?
- Why are students bullying others? What role does bullying play in the social interaction between students? What personal or social issues are students dealing with by bullying others?
- Are we focusing our prevention efforts on the students in the stages which have been identified to coincide with a peak/increase in bullying (i.e. Year 5 and Years 7 to 8)?
- How are students and staff members responding to bullying events?
- What does our school already do which you think is helpful? What could your school do differently?
- Do we need to focus more on responding to bullying after the event, including supporting students, or do we need to strengthen our preventative and pro-active measures related to school climate? Or both?
Confidential student surveys
Research shows that adults usually underestimate the rates of bullying because students are reluctant to report it and it often happens when adults are not around.
Assessing bullying through anonymous student surveys can provide a more accurate picture of what is going on.
It is vital to ask students their views in a confidential and respectful way.
Student surveys can include some of the same questions above and ask about:
- perception of school climate
- perception of safety
- perception of belonging within the school community
- aspects of the school or community that may support or help stop bullying
- frequency and types of bullying
- locations, including "hot spots"
- what other students did in response to a bullying incident
- what teachers and other adults did in response to bullying
- perceptions regarding staff attitudes about bullying.
Schools that conduct student surveys must be prepared to respond to the results.
Careful analysis is important to avoid making assumptions or jumping to conclusions. Distribute and discuss the findings with teachers, parents and students. Make sure that students' privacy is respected throughout this process.
Check back with students about the interpretations you make from their answers. Their answers and your interpretations underpin the validity and usefulness of the goals you set for your school community.
Goal setting for your school
Setting specific and shared goals is important so you can focus the school community's resources and efforts.
Only with a specific goal can you assess the appropriateness of the approaches available to you and how well it has worked in your school.
Goal setting for your school will be based on:
- your schools' vision and ethos for safe and supportive relationships and climate
- your jurisdiction's guidelines and procedures
- your school community's ideas and understanding about the causes of bullying and the best way to bring about change
- what you have learned from school data and your school audit related to bullying, safety and wellbeing
- what your school is already doing that positively influences behaviour, such as:
- student wellbeing strategies
- inclusive curriculum and critical pedagogy
- positive behaviour policies and procedures.
With this and any other relevant information, you can formulate broad goals for your school, for example:
- increase respectful behaviour by senior students toward young students
- improve staff ability to accurately identify and appropriately respond to bullying
- enhance students' understanding of the value of diversity and the importance of accepting difference
- increase positive bystander behaviour by educating students, staff and parents about appropriate ways to respond if they witness bullying.
Within these broad goals, you can determine more specific and measurable goals. Measurable goals are essential for determining success and planning for ongoing improvements.
Your specific goals will relate to an increase in observable positive behaviour or a decrease in incidents, for example 'Decrease of 10% in the bullying reports within 6 months'. Avoid overly-ambitious goals such as 'Eliminating bullying in 3 months'.
Be realistic in your goal setting and raising expectations about what can be achieved through implementing an anti-bullying approach.
Bullying is a pervasive aspect of our social culture and change takes time.
Research suggests that well-designed, well-implemented anti-bullying programs have resulted in a 20-30% decrease in bullying within the research periods. Work is still underway to understand these findings and to continue to improve outcomes.
Be alert too, that implementing a new anti-bullying approach in your school may initially lead to an increase in reports as students gain confidence that the school will manage these issues effectively. Ensure the school is ready to manage this.