Schools should adopt a long-term approach to bullying which involves staff, parents and students. In Sweden, all schools have to compile a plan to prevent discrimination and offensive treatment, often known as an ”Equal Treatment Plan”.
In brief – How can schools help to prevent bullying?
- Map the activity
- Involve all staff and students, and work together to devise measures on the basis of the challenges faced by the school
- Follow up on and evaluate the measures, and devise new measures if so required
The key to success
To be able to work successfully with equal treatment, you need to create certain conditions. Of course, all schools are different and there’s no one universal scheme that can be applied everywhere. But that said, we can derive inspiration from the experiences of others. Below are six success factors relating to organisational criteria for successful change management.
1. Driven management that prioritises this work
School management prioritising this work involves investing time and resources in issues relating to equal treatment. The management also needs to acquire an in-depth knowledge of the issues and make sure that this knowledge is passed on to all staff. These issues have to be given prominence at staff conferences, teachers’ meetings and one-on-one staff appraisals. For instance, as a manager you can make sure you always include equal treatment issues as the first item on the agenda at staff meetings after the summer holidays.
2. Include everyone in the work
It’s important to ensure that there’s support for the work in all elements of the operation. Get school staff, students and parents involved at all levels. In your capacity as headteacher, you can decide that all staff are to prepare a personal three-point action plan on how they can specifically challenge norms in their work during the coming term. Then discuss the action plan during meetings with teachers, and emphasise the fact that you’re interested in hearing about both good and bad experiences with the work.
3. Skills development based on knowledge and awareness campaigns
Working with issues relating to gender and sexuality demands a knowledge of both theory and practical methods. Without knowledge, staff won’t understand why this work is important and how it should be done. If teachers don’t feel they have sufficient knowledge, they often continue working along the old lines and no change takes place. You can give teachers with gender competence the task of regularly organising inspiring lectures on norms and power for all staff during a term.
4. Key persons
Use people with special skills in effective ways. True enthusiasts often burn out instead of inspiring others, because they do all the work themselves. Nor will any true enthusiast who’s not given legitimacy, resources or formal authority assign the emphasis to the work that a key person would do. A key person with a formal assignment to perform can act as a coach and sounding board for equal treatment work, which both the school management and staff team can benefit from.
5. Common and visionary objectives
It’s important to define common objectives, ideally at multiple levels: a general, long-term target for the school, a more short-term specific objective at team level, and an individual action plan. Don’t assume everyone shares the same view: instead, set aside time for discussion and reflection in teams so that the targets and visions are clarified. This is a fundamental element of work on the equal treatment plan.
6. Structure for interaction and follow-up
It’s important for interaction and follow-up to take place continuously so that all elements of the enterprise move in the same direction. This will make it impossible for any one element to fall behind. Start an equal treatment group with staff from different parts of the enterprise, allowing them to work together to pursue the efforts on a broad front, with a clear and binding mandate. They may also constitute a vital link between the school management and teams.