10 September 2018

Friendly Schools

At the Professional Development day held on the Monday of Week 1 this term, Scotch College was very fortunate to have Erin Erceg present to our staff regarding the importance of creating and developing a safe and welcoming environment within our school, where all students feel comfortable to be themselves and are confident enough to grow and explore and expand their horizons. Erin is the National Director of the 'Friendly Schools' Project and an Honorary Research Associate with the Telethon Kids Institute. She has enormous experience working in the areas of social-emotional learning and bullying prevention. We are a 'Friendly Schools Plus' school and we use this programme primarily in the Junior School.

It is our belief at Scotch College that we have a fundamental duty to ensure each of our students feels safe and valued, and that they feel a sense of belonging. The fact is that we are not always as successful in achieving this as we would like, but we are committed to this goal, knowing that it is crucial to our boys making progress in all other fields of endeavour.

The research which Erin presented was interesting in a number of ways. She outlined a number of the reasons why students engage in bullying behaviour. This is interesting because understanding what drives bullying should be used to shape how we respond to such behaviour - it is not a case of one size fits all. Erin also explored with us the main reasons why most children do not engage in bullying. The top five reasons were:

  • Good social skills and healthy relationships
  • A belief that bullying is wrong and that their parents would be angry/disappointed
  • Feeling good about themselves, and not needing power over others
  • Not wanting to be treated that way themselves
  • Being too busy!

We are hoping to build on the work done by Erin and work with her as we continue to seek ways to enhance the environment for every student at Scotch College. A powerful observation which Erin made was that students are the key to stopping bullying and we are keen to explore this. Student voice and support from fellow students are crucial elements in developing a positive environment and positive relationships. We know that boys' perceptions of who to turn to for help regarding problems they may be facing (bullying, in particular) shifts dramatically: in the Junior years, it is teachers and parents; in the Senior years, it is friends, parents, the internet and teachers. This highlights two keys for me. The first is the crucial role parents play - we need your help to deal with difficulties your son may be experiencing. And secondly, we need to keep working at ways to develop more effective communication channels at school. Using other, older students may well be beneficial in this regard.

Erin set out four clear statements which encapsulate what we hope each of our boys can say to themselves and believe about themselves:

  • "I am learning to manage my life"
  • "I have people around me who can help"
  • "I am a person people can like or love"
  • "I can find ways to solve the problems that I face"

I hope that you feel these statements apply to your son. If you have any concerns about your son, I urge you to let us know as early as possible, so that we can work together to make our school environment as positive as possible for him.

Mr James Hindle
Director of Student and Staff Wellbeing