I was delighted to see the spirit of support and camaraderie at the Senior School Athletics Sports on Tuesday, which was testimony to the positive culture we have at Lowther Hall. Girls encouraged each other, cheered for each other and reminded each other to stay positive across the whole day.
In contrast, there has been a great deal of discussion in the media this year about bullying and the profound effects that it can have on young people. At Lowther Hall we take very seriously our duty to provide a safe environment for the girls and we have many things in place to create a culture where students feel they can speak up about unkind behaviour so that it can be followed up. It is important that as a school community we all work together to maintain a healthy environment for each girl. At school, the following are some of the things that are in place to create a positive environment where bullying is not tolerated:
Home Group time at the start and end of each day where girls can “check in” with trusted staff members.
Clear policies and expectations about behaviour towards others.
A commitment to child safety which all staff sign on to via the Staff Code of Conduct.
Cross-age programs and activities which promote connections with older students who can provide an avenue for discussion and direct students to appropriate adults in times of difficulty.
Direct instruction to students (via Personal and Social Development classes, Home Group discussions and Year Level Programs) about positive behaviour and conflict resolution.
Staff with specific experience and qualifications in child and adolescent development in designated Pastoral Care roles.
It has been my experience that there are some actions which parents can take which assist greatly in promoting an environment where opportunities for bullying are minimised. These include:
1. Encouraging girls to bring any concerns to the attention of staff. There are a number of staff at Lowther Hall who have experience and/or specific qualifications in assisting children and young people who are experiencing bullying situations or other relationship or friendship challenges. It is important that any behaviours impacting on a girl are brought to the attention of staff so that the student can be supported and the situation addressed.
2. De-catastrophizing friendship ups and downs and equipping girls with strategies to manage day to day challenges of relationships. Sometimes students need assistance to tell the difference between a friendship difficulty, a single act of unkindness, a peer with poor impulse control and a bullying situation. All of these situations need to be addressed and students need to be supported to manage them. As adults, we can assist girls to identify the type of behaviour that is impacting on them and equip them with the strategy that will best help them to move forward in a positive way. Talking to girls about how we manage day to day challenges of our interactions with different people and modelling calm and clear communication can assist in this process.
3. Elimination or monitoring of social media exchanges and apps (eg messenger, texting, snapchat, etc.). No devices in bedrooms overnight. Reduction of time on line. Many bullying situations emerge when girls engage in unmonitored exchanges via their devices – on the school wireless network these can be monitored or blocked. When school aged students are allowed access to network enabled devices which are not monitored, there is increased opportunity for unkind comments to go unchecked or unreported.