Call to strengthen anti-bullying programs in high schools

Sharryn Brownlee

Parents and high schools across the Central Coast and NSW have put pressure on the Education Minister, Sarah Mitchell, to deliver a single state-wide policy addressing bullying in public high schools.

According to 2019 NSW Audit Office, bullying numbers in high schools have exceeded those in primary, and Central Coast Council of P&C’s President, Sharryn Brownlee, said this due to a lack of consistency when dealing with these issues.

“For every new generation of children who progress through school, the transition from primary to high changes the dynamics of their lives,” Brownlee said.

“This transition leaves some children vulnerable to slipping through the cracks, which is why you need a consistent strategy.

“This policy should tell all staff, students and parents how to manage bullying incidents before they escalate.”

In 2011, the National Bullying No Way! program offered schools several anti-bullying strategies to be adopted.

However, Brownlee said there is still no consistent anti-bullying template for high schools.

“If there is an issue and it is dealt with quickly and sharply, it stops it from escalating up to a critical incident,” she said.

“A quick example of what would be in the policy would be ‘If you (student) feel unhappy and unsafe at school, you can go to Teacher X’.

“The Education Minister said every school should have a bullying policy, but how often are they reviewed; how current are they; does every student and staff member know about them; and how consistent are they between schools?

“We have about 30 per cent student mobility on the Central Coast because of the nature of families moving houses and the new developments in the region.”

Brownlee said monitoring children’s behaviour in the playground and to and from school was just as important in detecting bullying incidents.

She said offering a wide range of lunchtime activities to students would help them engage in social activities, lessening the possibility of teasing.

“Most primary schools have a similar policy or template and systems in place for every child, and each teacher has a direct relationship with the students,” she said.

“They have done an excellent job with their ‘Meet and Greet’ program.

“There is usually a lot more staff on playground duties, and they also have practices in place to help children work and play together in recess and lunchtime breaks.”

Brownlee praised all 19 public schools on the Coast for their work in this area and said Lake Munmorah, Narara, Wadalba, Berkeley Vale, Tumbi and The Entrance schools were leading the way in anti-bullying programs.

“We need to make sure that school is a happy and safe place for all families and that any external pressures are not playing out in school playgrounds,” she said.

Jacinta Counihan