Wales joins the Finns in beating the bullies

An anti-bullying programme being rolled out to schools by Bangor University, the only Centre in the UK licensed to introduce the programme, is helping schools to reduce and deal with bullying.

Developed and evaluated in Finland, with extensive funding from the Finnish government, the KiVa anti-bullying programme is proven to reduce bullying in schools there - and early indications suggest its effectiveness in Welsh schools as well.

Schools are required by law to have a policy for dealing with bullying, but it is left to schools to decide how to achieve this. The content and quality of anti-bullying policies and procedures varies between schools, with a wide range of interventions to reduce bullying in use across the UK, but with little evidence as to their effectiveness.

Having already successfully introduced child behavior programmes, which have now been widely adopted in schools and nurseries in Wales, child psychologist, Professor Judy Hutchings, Centre for Evidence Based Early Intervention at the School of Psychology, turned her attention to the problem of bullying.  A pilot of the KiVa programme in Wales showed obtained excellent results. Prof Hutchings is now leading a UK wide initiative in training schools in the programme.

Already, over 70 school in north and south Wales and over the border in England have adopted the programme and are involved in measuring its effectiveness in Wales. The Centre are now licensed to train trainers to spread the programme to more schools across the whole of the UK.

Prof Hutchings explains:

“The Finnish situation was similar to our own, with the onus on schools to design their own action plans to deal with bullying. However their research over a ten year period showed that this approach failed to produce any changes in levels of child reported bullying.”

“I heard about the KIVa anti bullying programmes for children aged between seven and fifteen. These have been developed and their effectiveness proven by Prof. Salmivalli and colleagues at Turku University. I was aware that bullying prevention was becoming a topic of concern in Welsh schools and decided to explore the possibility of introducing KiVa to Wales.

The Programme is based on research that shows how bystanders, or other children in the classroom or playground can affect bullying behavior. Through training, resources, class lessons, online activities, and parental advice and support, the programme challenges what is acceptable behavior as well as developing skills, behavior and attitude.”

A Big Lottery Innovation Fund award to Bangor University and the Dartington Social Research Unit has enabled the team to undertake a more rigorous trial the programme in Wales.  They already have very promising anecdotal feedback. Penmorfa School head teacher and pupils will be presenting their implementation of the programme and initial results at the conference in Bangor on 2 February.

Dave Edwards, Headteacher of Ysgol Penmorfa, Prestatyn said: 

“After two years, KiVa has had a positive impact at our school and we are proactive in managing bullying. There are clear procedures to establish what is and what isn't bullying behaviour and the school a consistent approach to reporting and recording incidents.  Our pupils have a greater understanding of bullying and are better able to respond.  The children learn empathy, conflict resolution skills and social responsibility."

Huw Edward Jones, Deputy Headteacher at Ysgol Llanllechid said:

“We’ve found that our pupils have responded well to the lessons covering being part of a team, respect for others, learning about emotions, how a group interacts and group pressure.  Sitting within the whole programme, the lessons have provided us with a positive approach to bullying for the whole School to embrace.”

Publication date: 2 February 2016