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Ministry of Education.

Promoting positive behaviour

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Common practice ways of thinking...

A safe and caring school works well at four levels:

  • the whole-school – where school values, policies, and practices are clearly defined and communicated to everyone
  • the classroom – that supports good social, emotional, and life skills
  • the individual child – who receives support when they are considered at high risk
  • parents, families, whānau, and the wider community – who are well connected with, and involved in, the school.

Ko te oranga taiao, he oranga tangata – environmental health is personal health. Child wellbeing depends on:

  • individual wellbeing (spiritual, mental, and physical health and relationships) being in balance
  • whānau having capacity for care, guardianship, and long term planning
  • vibrant communities that have cultural and intellectual resources and a secure cultural identity.

Systems-thinking solutions are needed to address bullying behaviours.

Approaches need to be aimed at changing the culture of the wider system and need to bring students, schools, families, and communities together to build the skills, strategies, and capabilities of all involved.

Bullying depends on the bully-victim-observer trade.

Prevention programmes need to teach negotiation skills to potential victims, refusal skills to potential observers, and leadership skills to all students who may use bullying as an inappropriate way of being a leader.

Common practice ways of working...


  • Gather data about safety and bullying behaviour through interviewing staff, children, and the community. (Have an attitude of curiosity not animosity in your enquiry.)
  • Engage the community in a review to raise awareness, identify needs, create a shared vision, and commit to action.
  • Identify contributors to bullying behaviour over which parents, educators, and professionals have influence. These will be found outside the person: the events that reliably precede and follow challenging behaviour.


(if you fail to plan, then you plan to fail)

  • Collaborate with students, staff, parents, whānau, and the community to develop a school policy and protocols.
  • Develop a plan outlining how you will address the contributors to bullying behaviour, model and teach expectations, build students’ resilience, allow for natural surveillance across the school, and make sure adults are highly visible.
  • Choose the smallest change that will have the biggest impact on the ‘hot spots’ or ‘hot times’ where aggressive or bullying behaviours are more likely to occur.
  • Generate a list of replacement behaviours. Frame these in positive, observable terms.


  • Model and teach expected behaviours.
  • Model and teach self-regulation, negotiation, and conflict resolution skills.
  • Teach children how to respond in bullying situations (stop/walk/talk).
  • Train staff in responding to bullying behaviours and teaching required skills.
  • Provide generous quantities of positive adult/teacher attention and other reinforcement.
  • Respond to unwanted behaviour with firm and predictable responses that are delivered consistently by everyone. Choose from a continuum of responses that match the intensity of the unwanted behaviour.


  • Maintain your programme of activities to address policies and practices over time, and regularly evaluate.
  • Applaud the adaptability of children and young people and celebrate their success.
  • Applaud the innovations and commitment of staff.
  • Make a big deal of it – regularly tell parents, families, whānau, and communities of the achievements of children and young people.

Tips & tools

Information sheets

Information sheets:

Survey tools: Wellbeing@School – student and staff surveys and tools to assist New Zealand schools to create a safe and caring learning environment.

Useful information for parents

Useful information for students

  • Step up, be safe, be proud – a guide to responding to bullying written by secondary students for other students (Ministry of Education).

Other useful sections of this website:

Stories and examples

We are still developing this section. Please visit again soon for stories and examples.

Useful reading

Useful programmes

Ministry of Education

New Zealand Police

Community agencies

Overseas programmes

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