Schools need quality label for antibullying strategy

28 September 2018 - After a week of intensive discussion in Palermo, 60 students, teachers and experts concluded that it is time to develop quality standards for antibullying policies in schools. At average, about 19% of students are bullied in some way and almost 9% are frequently bullied. But in the worst countries, up to 30% encounter any form of bullying and 17% are frequently bullied. Minorities often experience higher levels of bulling. All schools want to fight bullying, but not all schools know how to do it effectively.

Good policy makes a difference

Research shows that there are significant differences between schools in how students experience safety, exclusion or even violence. Bullying cannot be addressed by just punishing “the bullies” and supporting the “victims”. Research on bullying shows that school violence and exclusion is always rooted in an institutional and often wider social culture in which competition and marginalization takes place. Effective policies address the culture, not only the individual transgressors on rules.
The international meeting was a part of the European Anti-Bullying Certification (ABC) project that aims to develop a method that schools can use to assess and improve their own school safety policy. The project experiments with this in 9 schools in 5 countries: Greece, Italy, the Netherland, Spain and the UK. One of the goals is to develop a European label for high quality antibullying policy, comparable with the EU energy label. This international perspective is a challenge, because not only school cultures but also national cultures, policies and guidelines differ significantly across Europe. For example, in the UK 23.9% of the students were bullied in any way at some time, with 14.2% being bullied frequently, while in the Netherlands 9.3% of the student were confronted with bullying with only 3.3% being frequently bullied. This leads to the impression the European Community feels more inclined to set quality standards for washing machines than for safe schools.

Setting quality standards

The ABC-project was initiated by the European Antibullying Network and GALE acquired funding of the Dutch Erasmus+ authority to develop a quality assessment and guidelines for schools. This project differs from previous project in that it does not develop yet another toolkit with inspirational methods, but helps schools to critically look at themselves and to make a grounded analysis and tools to create a joint vision and strategy.
The project also sets up national Feedback Committees who are involved in the development and play a key role in starting a policy dialogue in each country: should be set quality standards for the safety in our schools, and if yes, how? At the end of the project, this discussion will also be taken to the European level. The project partners think that Europe does not only need efficient washing machines but also efficient safe schools.