Preventing Bullying in Schools: How a Kind Approach Can Help

Bullying in schools is a global issue that arises at nearly every level, including in early childhood, primary and secondary programmes. Bullying in Singapore schools is sometimes reported as a problem as well. At OWIS, the administration, teachers, students and parents take bullying seriously, and we have focused on creating a kind approach to minimise bullying in our school. We believe that our kind and compassionate approach helps counter behavioural problems and organically creates a positive culture at our school that fosters good behaviour.

Defining Bullying

It is important to understand what bullying is, and what it isn’t.

At OWIS, we define bullying as behaviour by an individual or group, repeated over time, that consequently hurts another individual or group physically or emotionally. It involves an imbalance of power, leaving someone helpless to prevent it or put a stop to it. Bullying can be physical, verbal or psychological. It can happen face-to-face or through cyberspace.

It is worth noting that bullying is not:

  • A single action or instance of dislike.

  • A single episode of argument or spite.

  • A mutual disagreement.

  • An isolated act of aggression.

While these actions can cause great distress, they do not fit the definition of bullying, and they are not examples of bullying unless someone is deliberately and repeatedly doing them.

How to Stop Bullying in Schools: The OWIS approach

At OWIS, we have trained our teachers and students to recognise the signs of bullying and to take action when needed. We believe that bullying is a relationship problem which requires relationship-based solutions. We take bullying in school very seriously, and we have created a kind approach that is designed to naturally foster good behaviour in students.

Our Early Childhood students being kind to each other

The administrators, teachers and students at OWIS work to create a positive culture by:

  • Using positive reinforcement to encourage good behaviour.
  • Creating behaviour agreements so students can better recognise and modify their behaviour if needed.
  • Practising public praise and private feedback. We would never shame students for making a mistake.
  • Promoting kindness to foster a community that prioritises respect.

Anti-Bullying Policies for the OWIS Community

At OWIS, we have created anti-bullying policies designed for all members of our community, including teachers, students and parents.

Our internal policies for staff members require administrators, teachers and staff members to remain vigilant and to recognise the signs of bullying among students. They must actively work to prevent and resolve instances of bullying. This requires them to understand the signs of an isolated incident versus chronic bullying.

If a report of bullying is made, all staff members must treat it seriously and investigate it properly. Staff members play an important role in providing a safe and caring environment for students. They must model good behaviour, and stay consistent in the way that they handle any incident or situation in school.

A kind deed gets recognised on OWIS’ Kindness tree

Students are expected to understand the importance of creating a positive culture. If students notice any signs of bullying among their peers, they are encouraged to implement the anti-bullying strategies that they have been taught by their teachers. They should help any student being bullied in an appropriate way, and accompany them to report the incident. Most importantly, students must not bully others.

Parents are also expected to help prevent bullying at OWIS. Parents can do their part by teaching their own children what to do if they see someone being bullied, and encouraging them to report any instances of bullying. They also should report any suspected bullying to a teacher if they become aware of it. In addition, it is important that any parents, whose children have been accused of bullying, work with the school to find a positive way to address the issue.

Bullying Investigation Procedures

Parents and students should be aware that there are bullying investigation procedures in place at OWIS. Class teachers often begin the investigation, and they follow proper procedures and protocols, as warranted by the incident. If necessary, Senior Coordinators are also involved in the process and any confirmed incident is documented. In the unlikely situation that someone is bullied, support is provided to the victim and also to those found to be bullying, to change their pattern of behaviour.

Behaviour Agreements at OWIS

Different behaviour agreements have been created for different levels of students. Here is what parents and students need to know about the Early Childhood, Primary and Secondary Behaviour Agreements:

  • Early Childhood students are encouraged to use positive language when speaking with their peers. They are encouraged to share, take turns and take other inclusive actions. They are discouraged from calling others names, teasing students, threatening or excluding others.

  • Primary students are encouraged to be respectful, kind, caring and inclusive. They are rewarded for positive behaviour. Students who make mistakes or who are caught modelling inappropriate behaviour are addressed in private to eliminate shame.

  • Secondary students are expected to understand the importance of positive behaviour. They have a more strict disciplinary system in place in the event that they model inappropriate behaviour. There is a disciplinary system that teachers follow if necessary, which is based on the individual circumstances surrounding the incident.

By establishing clear expectations for behaviour and rewarding positive behaviour, the staff, students and parents work together to create and foster a kind, positive culture at OWIS.

For more information about OWIS and to experience its welcoming culture for yourself, contact us to schedule a school tour.

(This blog was originally written in collaboration with Mr Anthony Hacking, former Senior Coordinator – Secondary (Pastoral) & Maths Teacher, OWIS Nanyang.)