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New approach cuts school bullying, but 40 per cent of students still report being bullied

May 19, 2017, 09:49:00

A Finnish anti-bullying programme is showing promise in Kiwi schools, but more than 40 per cent of students still report being bullied.

Researchers from Victoria University carried out surveys of nearly 5300 children at 14 New Zealand primary schools to try to gauge the effectiveness of the KiVa programme, introduced in the past few years.

The survey was carried out before schools received their KiVa training, then was carried out again a year after the programme started.

In the first survey 47.8 per cent of the students reported not being bullied. A year after KiVa was implemented that rose to 58.3 per cent.

The findings from the small-scale preliminary evaluation were encouraging, as they were comparable to those found in Finland, where the downward trend had continued in following years, the report said.

The New Zealand evaluation was limited by not being able to track individual children, and was based on a relatively small sample. It also did not allow for factors such as school decile or year at school.

Among other findings:

- students reporting being bullied once or twice in the previous few months fell from 29.9 to 24.4 per cent

- students who reported not being bullied through the internet during the past few months rose from 77.9 to 83.3 per cent

- those reporting being bullied via the internet once or twice in the past few months fell from 16.9 to 12.1 per cent

- students saying they did not engage in bullying behaviours rose from 74.6 to 84.3 per cent

- those who said they engaged in bullying behaviours once or twice in the past few months fell from 19.5 to 11.9 per cent

- students completely agreeing with the statement "I feel safe at school" rose from 49.9 to 54.9 per cent

KiVa - which means kindness in Finnish - provides detailed lesson plans, along with interactive online games to reinforce concepts.

Participating schools are provided with a step-by-step guide on how to deal with bullying issues.

Despite the limitations, the preliminary evaluation demonstrated KiVa appeared to be working by reducing levels of victimisation and bullying in those schools that had chosen to implement the programme, the study said. The evaluation was led by led by Professor Vanessa Green from Victoria's School of Education.

KiVa was introduced to this country by Green and Deidre Vercauteren from Victoria University's Accent Learning - a division of Victoria University's commercialisation office Viclink.

"What's great about KiVa is that it also focuses on the bystander, not just victims and bullies," Green said previously.

"All the children at schools using the KiVa programme are taught to respect one another, to show empathy, to be a good friend and how to identify bullying.

"Most importantly they learn how to stick up for themselves and for others when they see bullying happening."