The selection of an anti-bullying approach that is suitable and feasible for your school is critical to achieving outcomes, but it is only the beginning. The real work is implementing and sustaining the approach over time.

Why is sustainability important?
Realistic timelines for implementation
Fidelity of implementation
Support for implementation
Prompt questions

Why is sustainability important?

Changing a school's culture or the behaviour of students and staff takes time. Even a high-quality evidence-based approach can achieve little in your school unless it is implemented well and sustained over time.

The school's capacity to sustain an approach for the period necessary to create positive change is a critical factor in effectiveness.

Realistic timelines for implementation

Implementing an approach aimed at creating a lasting positive impact on students' behaviour is likely to require a substantial duration. Influencing the school overall climate takes time – years rather than weeks.

A realistic appreciation of timeframes and expectations by all members of the school community will help everyone to sustain the energy and momentum to implement the approach.

Concern by staff or parents about lack of progress within short timeframes can derail implementation.

Fidelity of implementation

How closely a school adheres to the way an approach is designed to be implemented is known as fidelity of implementation (or program fidelity).

Fidelity covers all aspects of how an approach is implemented, such as the content, number of teaching sessions and their length, frequency of sessions, staff skilling, the way in which it is delivered, and the involvement of the participants.

Many schools make modifications or adaptations to approaches when they implement them. For example, a program may be intended to be implemented over four school terms, but a school may run it only in one term due to other important commitments in the other terms. This change during implementation can negatively impact on the effectiveness of the approach.

The key reason that approaches are less effective than expected is that changes made by schools have compromised the fidelity of implementation.

Considering Feasibility before selecting an anti-bullying approach will help to avoid the need for major changes which may reduce effectiveness.

Anti-bullying approaches for schools need to be designed around the realities of the school context, and provide information to assist schools to make modifications to suit their specific context. Support to the school community to ensure fidelity of implementation may also be necessary.

Well-designed approaches should provide information about fidelity of implementation, and also about how to make adaptations without compromising effectiveness.

Support for implementation

The type of support the approach provides for implementation may be a factor influencing your selection. It is definitely worth examining, given the time and effort required from the school, and the challenges many schools face in sustaining approaches over time.

Schools can foster sustainability through organising additional support for staff and students during implementation.

Implementation teams provide a point of contact, advice and encouragement for other members of the school community. Expert facilitators can play a valuable role in guiding implementation, providing professional development and assisting in ongoing monitoring.

The costs of support for implementation, particularly staff training initially and over time, should be considered when examining the overall cost of an approach.

Prompt questions for Sustainability

Key question: Can the school implement and sustain the approach as required for it to be effective?

To ask about the approach

  • How long does the approach take to fully implement and when should the school expect to see changes/outcomes?
  • Does the approach provide specific guidelines on implementation (e.g. timeframes, milestones, step-by-step procedures)?
  • Does the approach provide information about possible adaptations that do not compromise fidelity (i.e.​ the way the program is intended to be used)?
  • Is staff training available initially and on an ongoing basis as needed (e.g. for new staff) to ensure sustainable implementation?
  • What other support is available for implementation?

To ask about your school

  • How will the school sustain energy and momentum throughout implementation given the anticipated time before outcomes will be observable?
  • Will the school be able to implement the approach as recommended (fidelity of implementation) in order to be effective?
  • Are adaptions needed to implement the approach in our school context, and would these possibly compromise fidelity (and thus effectiveness)?
  • Have other schools made adaptations, and has the approach been successful with these adaptations?
  • How might we support ongoing implementation with fidelity, reduce any gaps, and ensure sustainability for long-term change?

Use the STEPS form for schools (PDF, 651KB) to record your answers.