Wednesday, July 18, 2018
Media Releases

Teaching the Four R’s– Reading, Writing, Arithmetic and Respect - Zero Tolerance on School Bullying  

Today I am announcing a Liberal Nationals Government will have a zero tolerance approach to bullying in government schools.


Our Zero Tolerance on School Bullying policy is a $15.3 million, four-point plan that will focus on learning respect as well taking a hard line approach to bullying in government schools.


This will be the biggest school anti-bullying program in Australia. Victoria will have the safest schools in the nation.


If Victoria is to be its best self, then it starts with people respecting one another. 


Learning to respect everyone regardless of gender, religion, sexuality, race, ethnicity, family circumstances and appearance begins in our homes and schools.  


According to a 2018 PwC Australia analysis commissioned by the Alannah & Madeline Foundation, almost 25% of Victorian school students are bullied at some stage during their time in school with an annual cost to our economy of around $135 million.   


That’s a staggering 228,000 Victorian students bullied each year which then also impacts families and friends.


Children who are victims of school bullying often suffer from self-esteem and confidence issues, behavioural problems and their ability to concentrate and perform at school.  In some tragic cases it can cause lifelong mental health issues and lead to self-harm.


The Liberal Nationals Zero Tolerance on School Bullying policy four-point plan is:


  1. The implementation in all government schools of the Alannah & Madeline Foundation’s anti-bullying program based on four foundations – Information,     Intervention, Prevention and Communication. 


  1. A Three Strikes policy where serial bullies who have failed to change their behaviour after two warnings and commit another act of serious bullying, are required to attend a disciplinary hearing with the School Principal, their parents and the parents of the victim. A report of this hearing will have to be submitted to the Student Safety Unit, which will maintain a register of such hearings, with the possibility of the Student Safety Unit being involved in such hearings to support the Principal. 


  1. Backing School Principals who make the tough call to expel serial bullies who have, despite repeated warnings, not improved their behaviour and are putting the safety and welfare of students at risk.  That means the Principal’s decision, made in the best interests of their school students, can’t be overturned by bureaucrats in Treasury Place, which has occurred previously.


  1. Recognising and rewarding school children who are an up-stander and not a bystander – those who stand up for other children who are being bullied.  It’s important to create a culture at schools where this sort of courage and integrity is recognised and encouraged. 


A Liberal Nationals Government will establish within the Department of Education, using current resources within the department’s 2,900 staff, a School Safety Unit which will be responsible for managing the rollout of the anti-bullying program across all government schools in partnership with the Alannah & Madeline Foundation. Independent schools can choose to opt-in to the program, at their discretion.


The Alannah & Madeline Foundation’s anti-bullying program is based on the four foundations of Information, Intervention, Prevention and Communication. 


  • Information: Program Design and Ongoing Development


Information is power. 


This aspect of the anti-bullying program will fund eighteen professional development sessions run by the Alannah & Madeline Foundation for school leaders throughout the state. 


These information sessions will help empower teachers to recognise, identify, respond and prevent bullying behaviour. 


When it comes to victims of school bullying, teachers are often the ‘first responders’.


That’s why a key part of these information sessions with school leaders is to help teachers recognise when there are noticeable and unexplained changes in student behaviour or students are clearly distressed.   Some of those signs are where students may suddenly change their social group, lose confidence, experiencing a dramatic fall in academic results or struggling to cope with normal routines.


Once bullying has been identified,these information courses will help teachers to respond and prevent further bullying.  Some of the key strategies for teachers to respond and prevent will include establishing trust and positive relationships with students, to create a positive culture of respect and resilience.  Another key part of this program will be to help teachers with even more effective classroom management skills to shutdown individual cases of bad behaviour before it gets worse and causes more damage to their victims.


These information sessions will be based off the latest cutting edge research by the Alannah & Madeline Foundation Nationals Centre Against Bullying.


Bullying behaviour is constantly evolving and to be effective, any anti-bullying program must be kept up to date.


  • Intervention: eSmart Program -     affirmative action to protect kids from cyberbullying


Continue the Alannah & Madeline Foundation’s tried, tested and true eSmart Program, which is an interactive online resource used to teach children to be careful in their use of the internet, increase digital literacy and be aware of cyberbullying especially on social media.


It also aims to protect children from cyber risks, like cyberbullying, online sexual predation, sexting, identify theft and fraud. 


eSmart membership includes access to a help desk, manned by anti-bullying experts from the Alannah & Madeline Foundation.


  • Prevention: Community Culture Change Training


If we are going to be serious about taking a zero tolerance approach to bullying in schools, there has to be a partnership between parents, teachers and students.


That’s why this aspect of the program focuses on a culture of change as well as ongoing leadership training will be developed and implemented at all levels and roles in the school.


Each school in the program will receive two training workshops every year, one for parents and teachers, and the other for students. 


  • Communication: Advertising Program


An advertising and information program will occur to increase awareness of school bullying and access to the benefits of the Alannah & Madeline Foundation’s program.


An extensive communication program designed to promote positive cultural change and the importance of respecting everyone regardless of gender, religion, sexuality, race, ethnicity and appearance. 


The Liberal Nationals $15.3 million program will be the single biggest investment in dealing with bullying at schools of any state government.  


We can’t turn a blind eye to school bullying or take a soft approach.  That’s why the Liberal Nationals approach to adopt a Zero Tolerance on School Bullying and a focus on learning respect is so important. 


Comments attributable to Shadow Minister for Education, Tim Smith:


“We can give students the best teachers with the best facilities in the best classrooms at the best schools, but if they are distressed because of bullying then they aren’t going to reach their potential. That’s not a theory, it’s a fact.


The first step to helping students do better at school is to provide them with a safe environment where they can be confident in themselves.   


Unlike the Andrews Labor Government’s Safe Schools program, we will conduct professional workshops with teachers, parents and students in order to equip teachers, parents and students with hands-on strategies to tackle bullying.


More importantly, we will back school principals when they decide to expel trouble makers to deter further bullying behaviour. We will not allow their decisions to be overturned by bureaucrats in the Education Department. We back principals who have a zero tolerance approach.”

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