"This project has created a culture of positivity in our school. The kids are excited and involved. They are using restorative language when things go wrong. We have a wall of positiveness as a visual reminder of our expectations and staff are already thinking what next themes could go there." Principal, Mt Nelson

Where did the program come from?

The Mt Nelson Primary School Building Positive Relationships and School Cultures Project  was developed as part of a pilot program funded nationally by the Australian Safe and Supportive Schools Communities (SSSC). The aim was to support a school to develop new ways for engaging the school community in conversations and actions that could help in building awareness of and reducing bullying behaviours. It was to link in with the National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence and the Bullying. No Way! site.

Why this particular program?

Pete Walker, Principal of Mt Nelson Primary School and Dr Sue Stack, Holistic Educator and Researcher, worked collaborately to devise an approach that could fit in with the values and processes of the school. The school was moving towards a Respectful Schools Framework and was a No-rules school (based on values). The term "Bullying" can be inflammatory, and it is too easy to label people or to punish them. Pete did not want to say "No" to something - but rather "Yes" to something. He and Sue used an inquiry process that helped them re-imagine what bullying was (a dysfunctional relationship), and what it was that they could say yes to (positive relationships).  Bullying is more likely to occur where the culture is a negative one, and everyday meanness is accepted. Pete was keen to help the school move to a more positive culture with the following key principles:

Key values around restorative practice:
    • This is a school where we practice acting positively to others to build a friendly school. Even when things go wrong we want to use a process that is positive, where participants come out whole and feel a sense of integrity and growth. 
    • We treat meanness from a place of kindness.
    • We aim to restore relationships rather than use punishment.
    • We believe that everyone can learn and grow. We see any incidents as opportunities to develop social and emotional learning which we see as an important part of the curriculum.
    • Each of us has responsibility for each other, to look out for each other, to model the behaviours that we value.
    • By solving issues before they get into regular patterns we can prevent more damaging relationship dynamics such as bullying.

    Developing a program

    Pete and Sue then developed, week by week, a 4 week program for the Grade 4 children using an action research process, listening to the students and building on what emerged, and what the students suggested.  The key challenge for the students was to run lessons for other grades on the  National Day of Action Against Bullying and Violence - March 20th. The over-all aim was to help create a culture in the school to shift bullying and disrespectful behaviours to positive relationships. 

    The children created the motto - 
    "We want to change meanness to friendCHIPS (Caring, Helping, Including, Positive, Smile)"

    The students  created a campaign board where children from the school could write sticky notes where they thanked another student. They developed conflict scenarios for other students to devise good endings and showed videos and read books about friendships. 

    The blog which explains the development of the process and what happened is here. The students explain the program in this video.

    If you would like to run something similar in your school then the 4 week program with detailed lesson plans and activities is here.

    Engaging with other schools 

    Kids to kids
    Following the National Day of Action the Mt Nelson students were then keen to continue the project through sharing their learning with other schools. Part 2 of the project has involved Dr Stack working with the Grade 4/5 class to create student generated challenges, tips and scenarios that are available on the student friendCHIPS blog or in the student resources on this blog.  Through doing this the children have been working in teams, and dealing with team conflict issues through learning about and using skills in emotional intelligence and conflict resolution. We are so impressed with the journey they have been on and how much they have learnt through this process.

    They are keen to engage in conversations with other schools. Already the Dover Grade 3/4 class has been watching the videos, trialling the activities and making their own videos  and blog in response, some of which we have highlighted on the site. Your class can engage directly through the friendCHIPS blog by writing in comments, emailing or sending in links to videos.

    Teachers and Principals
    If you would like to take your school on a journey of cultural change and would like to discuss our experience, or get some help getting started, contact:

    Dr Sue Stack on susan.stack@utas.edu.au  (Educational consultant) 
    Pete Walker on Peter.Walker@education.tas.gov.au  (Principal, Mt Nelson Primary School)

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