Doorstop interview: National Day of Action Against Bullying & Violence, National Plan for School Improvement
- Minister for School Education
- Minister for Early Childhood and Youth
PETER GARRETT: Thank you all for coming out on this third National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence. It is terrific to be here at Facebook Headquarters in Sydney where we have announced the winners of the Safe Schools are Smart Schools Competition, a part of the many additional initiatives we have been taking to make sure every school is a safe school and everybody takes a stand against bullying and violence in their schools.
And particularly that we have an opportunity to communicate the important messages, and also the support that is there as well, where we see bullying and violence happen in our schools and also online.
The statistics are still challenging. Around one in 4 students are reporting that they might be subject to bullying over time. One in 5 is experiencing forms of cyber bullying which I think is probably still, regrettably, increasing and how we respond to that is especially important because if a child is being bullied in school it can have extremely disastrous consequences to their emotional life, to their learning capacity and it also can affect them once they leave school in later life.
So to begin with we’ve got a National Safe Schools Framework and this has been developed. It is the first type of its kind in the world. It was developed with significant input and advice from behavioural experts, education experts and people who have researched in this area.
That framework is already in place in some schools. I want to see it in every school in Australia and as part of the National Plan for School Improvement—which is our response to the Gonski Review recommendations—we will be seeking to make sure every school has a Safe Schools Plan in place, built on the Safe Schools Framework.
The second thing to say is that we’ve got important online information out there available both for students through the Bullying. No way! website and now today, as we launch the Safe Schools Hub website as well. And that’s for teachers and parents to provide them with advice, information and guidance on how to deal with bullying when it takes place in a school or in a home and a parent finds out about it.
And that of course is because young Australians are very digitally progressive and they are people who spend time online, they’ve got access to devices already.
Last year we launched the Take a Stand app, and that was for older students. This year of course we are launching the app for younger students, younger kids, from Year 3 upwards. This is an important app, the Allen Adventure app, because it will provide these younger kids with an opportunity to go through with their parents, or big brothers and sisters, on some of the things that can happen and understand a little bit about the importance of good social behaviour inside the school.
Just finally to say that the Government recognises how serious this is, and this National Day of Action is one that I know is going to continue to build in momentum over the years. Terrific this year, on this National Day of Action against Bullying and Violence to see over 600,000 students around Australia, over 1400 schools involved. We do want to take a stand against bullying and violence in our schools and today is a very important part of that.
Finally, last but not least, congratulations to all the winners of the Safe Schools are Smart Schools Competition. What I heard this morning was how innovative, how committed and how sensible the ideas that are coming through from these schools who have won these competitions, but also from all schools that got involved, they are making a great contribution themselves.
The thing that struck me more than anything else, one of the winning NSW schools—Sans Souci School—reported not only strong appreciation and awareness of this issue at the school but once they started to do these activities, get involved and encourage students to take a stand on bullying they saw significant improvements in behaviour, particularly out in the playground, much less absenteeism and a much more harmonious school environment which means kids can learn well and be happy and feel safe in the school, when they go to school.
On that basis, happy to take questions.
JOURNALIST: The Safe Schools Hub site that you’ve launched today, can you describe how a parent would make use of that?
PETER GARRETT: If a parent has a kid who is experiencing some bullying and the parent doesn’t know where to go for support or what the appropriate response should be from the school, the Safe Schools Hub provides that information and that linkage. It also provides the linkage to all of the work that we are doing on bullying and all of the resources that are there to provide guidance for parents and for teachers when bullying takes place, whether it is something the parent encounters or something the teacher encounters as well.
JOURNALIST: Politics can be a pretty brutal game. Do you think bullying happens in Federal Parliament?
PETER GARRETT: Look I think people see the noise of Question Time and that is a small portion of the day. I guess my answer to that question generally is this: we still do see high levels of workplace bullying in Australia—unacceptably high levels. If we really want to do something about it and be a country which basically puts up its hand and says “we’re not going to be a kind of culture that acquiesces the bullying wherever it takes place”, the best place for us to start, of course, is in the schools. And what we heard this morning is how keen and how focused and how enthusiastic these young students are about actually addressing those issues in the school setting.
JOURNALIST: How important is it that the kids themselves are doing it, so it’s from the bottom up rather than the top down.
PETER GARRETT: Look I think it is really important and exciting that we’ve got young Australian students developing these initiatives to taking a stand against bullying in their schools. I think it has been fantastic to see the clever ideas, innovation, and also the way they are drawing the school population, and parents, into a conversation about how we can reduce bullying and violence in our schools.
I think the kids intuitively know that bullying and violence is unacceptable. We need to take another step and that is to make it absolutely clear to everybody, absolutely everybody, that bullying and violence isn’t acceptable. And what we’ve seen from this fantastic competition Australia-wide is that students in our schools get it—and now we just need to spread the message as widely as we can.
JOURNALIST: You seem quite passionate about this. Were you ever a victim of bullying yourself?
PETER GARRETT: I am very passionate about this issue because I think that the impact that bullying can have on a young person can stay with them for a very long period of time. I was fortunate in as much as that I wasn’t bullied in any significant way at school. But I’ve seen that impact, I’ve seen it other ways through kids that I’ve known about, through kids that are friends of the family and things of that kind.
I also hear about it in schools when I go into schools. When I go into schools as Education Minister, one of the things I hear from people, including parents, is that this is an issue of great concern. And the statistics that I’ve spoken about today are not acceptable for us in Australia and we know we can do something about it.
I think the final thing to say is that we’ve got to cooperate to solve the problems of the future. And we have to respect people, irrespective of where they come from, how they look, what colour their hair is. All of these issues that come up when young people start bullying. It is really about encouraging that culture of respect. I really think that is an important thing for us as a nation and it’s very important that we can start that in schools and this National Day of Action helps us do that.
JOURNALIST: With the Gonski Review, when is the COAG meeting happening?
PETER GARRETT: The COAG meeting with the Prime Minister and Premiers will happen in the middle of April. And we’ll continue our negotiations with the non-government school sector and state governments around the reforms. I’ll just make this point very quickly. I think we’ve done a huge amount in the last couple of years on this issue. We’ve got first-class resources in place, fantastic online resources as well and very good advice and information on how to deal with bullying and violence. But we must make sure that every single school has, in its School Improvement Plan, a National Safe Schools Framework imbedded in each and every school. And that will be a part of the plan after those negotiations.
JOURNALIST: Do you have a date for mid-April?
PETER GARRETT: Off the top of my head I think it could be April 19, but we can check that. Thank you very much everybody.