Spats and squabbles, name-calling and dust ups are happening less in the playground of Dana Street Primary School in Ballarat this year, thanks to a new level of understanding.
Principal Paul Nolan recognised that a simple, consistent approach could help reduce bullying behaviour and squabbling among students.
The answer lay in Restorative Practice, a strategy that seeks to repair damaged relationships among students while promoting healthy relationships and accountability.
A key strength is how it can be successfully applied to all students, regardless of their background, culture or circumstance.
Thanks to the school’s allocation of equity funding, Mr Nolan was able to offer his teachers Restorative Practice professional learning. The impact was immediate.
Equity funding, provided by the Victorian Government, provides extra money to schools to help the students who need it most reach their full potential.
Tackling bullying together
“It was a fantastic,” Grade 6 teacher Lisa Richards said, “Teachers are now on the same page on how to deal with bullying and disputes between students.”
“You have to tackle the issues around safety and happiness before you can get to the core of learning. "
“Restorative Practice gives students a voice to reflect on their behaviour and understand who they may have affected and why.”
Circle Time, where students sit with the teacher in a circle once or twice a week to share ideas and feelings, is part of the successful approach. Students discuss how bullying, for example, affected others, what impact it had and strategies to fix the problem, without making it just about the child.
However, Ms Richards said not many children wanted to take part when first introduced.
“Now they absolutely love it,” Ms Richards said.
“Children dealing with isolation or bullying have a voice in a safe place."
“I’ve seen kids break down in tears about bullies. Just explaining the hurt they feel makes anyone think about their actions and behaviour.”
Ms Richards said since Circle Time and Restorative Practice were first introduced in late 2016, there had been a marked decline in bullying behaviour.
Students learn the power of empathy
Ann Mary, 11, said Circle Time had made students more aware of quieter classmates who may not be heard as much as the “bigger personalities”.
“We don’t discriminate — everyone is equal,” she said.
Sixth grader, Luca, said: “What is shared in the Circle, stays in the circle”.
“I’ve seen a lot of changes, everyone works together better,” Luca said.
Grade 6 student Alexander said:
“It helps solve problems out in the yard.”
Breaking the link of disadvantage — the Education State
Education Minister James Merlino said the Victorian State Government was providing extra funding of $493.3 million over four years (and $148.8 million a year ongoing) to provide targeted school funding to support schools with students who faced more barriers to success than their peers.
“We are continuing to transform Victoria into the Education State because we want every child in every school to have the opportunity to fulfil their potential. A child’s school results should not be restricted by their background,” Minister Merlino said.
“This funding is transforming the lives of children across Victoria and boosting the numbers of teachers and support staff; it’s making a real difference.”
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