Cowie, H. & Jennifer, D. (Co-ordinating team, UK), Chankova, D. & Poshtova, T. (Bulgaria), Deklerck, J. & Deboutte, G. (Belgium), Ertesvåg, S. K. & Samuelsen, A. S. (Norway), O'Moore, M. & Minton, S. J. (Ireland) and Ortega, R. & Sanchez, V. (Spain) © (2006)
Given our understanding that the problem of school violence extends far beyond the individual children involved as aggressors or victims, the VISTA training adopts the WSA to the promotion of non-violence and prevention of violence as an essential framework from within which the elements and initiatives of an intervention are carefully co-ordinated at different levels. In Unit B1, we present a ‘bio-ecological approach’ to the promotion of non-violence that takes into account: the individual characteristics of perpetrators, victims, bystanders, and adults; the ethos of the school; the quality of the learning environment of the school; and the links with the wider community, society and natural environment. This Unit offers a unique framework for the prevention and reduction of school violence in the form of a “prevention pyramid”.
Implementing a WSA to school violence requires an active learning process on the part of the school as organisation, a process that occurs within a wider context. Today, we live in a complex knowledge-society and, as such, we require educated citizens who can learn continuously, and who can work with diversity. Complexity means change and specifically it means rapidly occurring, unpredictable, non-linear change in our organisations and our world. Such changes are not easy to control. Different ways of thinking about change are required – ways that our conventional approaches to planned change have not allowed. Consequently, schools must become learning organisations or they will fail to survive as an organisation creating knowledge. Unit B2 presents participants with strategies for implementing a program or an idea that will support them in arriving at a clear rationale for leading a change process in preventing and reducing violence in schools. The aim of the Unit is to assist participants in the process of change and to support staff involved in its development. Participants will become familiar with possible barriers and resistances they are likely to meet during an implementation process and learn about ways for overcoming these.
A WSA is important in effecting a sustainable and positive influence on the school environment. As such, account needs to be taken of the style and quality of leadership and management practices; the quality and delivery of the curriculum; playground activities and the social aspects of the curriculum; the formalised and agreed procedures to deal with a bullying and/or violent incident; and, the building relationships with others and with the self. In Unit B3, we explore the key role that school management staff, teaching staff, parents, young people and the wider school community play in the development of a school ethos of non-violence. The Unit offers a set of skills and strategies through which a positive school ethos of non-violence can be practically implemented in school. By the end of the Unit, participants will be familiar with the skills involved in planning work with different groups within school communities.
The role of parents has been identified as an essential part of the WSA towards the prevention and reduction of bullying and violence in schools. In order for the WSA to be effective, together with school personnel, parents have a responsibility to ensure that their children and young people are not involved in inappropriate behaviours such as bullying or harassing other school pupils. Bullied young people are more likely to report their experiences to their parents rather than to staff at their school indicating that parents can play a critical role in a school community's efforts to address bullying and violence. Unit B4 focuses on the role of parents in addressing bullying and violent behaviour in collaboration with their child's school. Participants will become familiar with the skills involved in planning work with parents in school communities and with the strategies for engaging parents in activities that will support them in taking their part in the promotion of non-violence and the reduction of violence. The WSA provides guidance to parents themselves in working productively at home with their children in countering and preventing violent and bullying behaviour in schools.
Work with school staff is central to the practical implementation of the WSA towards the prevention and reduction of violence in schools. Not only do we rely upon teachers to deliver the content of anti-bullying programmes, and even to act as trainers within such programmes, but on a day-to-day basis, school staff are and always have been very much at the 'coal face' in terms of having to deal with incidents of violent behaviour in their schools. In Unit B5, we focus on the key role that staff (senior management, teachers, classroom assistants, lunchtime supervisors, caretakers, administrators) play in the application of a WSA for addressing school violence. We also present guidance on how to work productively in the classroom with young people in promoting pro-social attitudes.
One of the major challenges facing teachers in the 21st century is the issue of school violence. Three main problems that have been linked with school violence include interpersonal conflicts, low-level disruption and lack of discipline. When such problems as these affect teaching and learning, there is a feeling of unrest throughout the school population. Daily life in school becomes more difficult and dealing with problem behaviour starts to take precedence over academic tasks. The first step to addressing such problems is to differentiate between conflicts, lack of discipline and disruptions, as causes, consequences, and lines of intervention are different depending on the behaviour. Unit B6 explores how to implement the WSA with all children, both with vulnerable children most at risk of being either victims or perpetrators of violence, and with young people such as peer supporters. In this Unit, we describe strategies that have been found to be effective, and critically reflect on the ways in which teachers can respond to the diverse reality of the problems they encounter in their daily life. We explore ways of breaking the cycle of lack of motivation that can lead to young people becoming disaffected and therefore more prone to engage in disruptive and aggressive behaviours.