Safe school

This module offers suggestions about ways to ensure that the school social environment is perceived as safe and addresses the safety concerns of students.

Focus questions
  1. Did the “Safe school” sub-aspect data suggest any next steps for your school?
  2. Do you have other school data about this area of school practice? What does this tell you?

Key ideas about ways schools can work with students to address concerns about social safety

Students can be actively involved in working to address their and their peers concerns about safety through the use of “Positive youth development” approaches. These approaches involve students in active social problem-solving, are an alternative to traditional discipline such as time out or detentions. They can be used to resolve incidents of mild to moderate conflict such as bullying behaviour. Positive youth development approaches build students’ relationships and social competencies. 

Note: Studies show that when student peers and bystanders intervene, behaviours like bullying stop faster. However, the evidence is mixed about the effectiveness of approaches such as actively training bystanders or peer mediators to resolve conflicts. If these approaches are used they need to be carefully planned, monitored, and supported. Peer leaders need to be carefully selected and supported by staff. Students also need to be trained to ensure they possess a range of non-aggressive conflict resolution strategies.

Reflective question(s)
  1. Are there any places in the school grounds that students or staff do not feel safe?
  2. To what extent are break-times well managed? Are students active and able to lead or take part in a range of activities of their choice?

Ways of working could include:

Further needs assessment

  • Working collaboratively with students, parents and whānau to assess the school environment to ensure it promotes wellbeing and to identify any “hot spots” or “hot times” where more incidents occur.
  • Using school incident data to identify unsafe areas (e.g., staff and students could do a visual map of the school and map the location of incidents over time).


Managing break-times

  • Ensuring duty staff have a visible presence and use consistent approaches (Active Supervision Handbook, CBER [pdf]) to addressing incidents and celebrating prosocial (caring, helping) behaviours.**
  • Running co-curricula activities such as clubs, kapa haka, exercise, or dance at break-times.
  • Promoting buddy or friendship networks for students or safe places for students to withdraw to.


Making changes

  • Encouraging student leadership of break-time activities (see the Valuing student leadership module).
  • Enabling students, staff, and the local community to engage in health promotion activities to enhance the school social environment or physical spaces (e.g., Do school spaces celebrate student achievements and work? Can students design spaces and gardens that create a sense of community? Can spaces in which incidents occur be re-designed? What are the different ways students can be supported to self-manage their social interactions at break times? (Is there time, space, and equipment available for student-led activities such as sports or dance sessions? 


** denotes PB4L School-wide core practice.