Step 2: Gather evidence
This is the crucial step of gathering data from a range of sources and people to get a full picture of bullying behaviour at your school — identify the level and types of bullying, what's working well and areas for improvement.
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Bullying is often hidden from adults. Data sources, including gathering data from students, are important to determine the level and type of bullying that occurs and whether efforts to prevent bullying are effective.
There is no universal formula that works in every school. Each school has its own culture and values, and bullying can be different depending on the school environment. That’s why each school needs to regularly collect reliable data and develop initiatives that are tailored to the needs of their students and the wider community. Finding out what’s going on and providing this information to the school community is a key element of success for any approach or programme.
It’s important at the planning stages to look at the resources available to gather evidence and analyse data. If the bullying prevention team feels it does not have the necessary resources to make best use of the data, this issue should be raised with the school's leadership team.
Schools have a range of data sources and tools they can use to inform their understanding of bullying and whether it’s happening in their school. It's important to review what you have and decide if you need more data to inform the bullying prevention plan. Gathering data is a good way to raise awareness about bullying behaviour across the school community, and provide a baseline for monitoring outcomes over time.
Some examples of data that could be collected are listed below*:
- An anonymous student survey — can enable student voice and suggest particular groups of students or areas to focus on.
- An anonymous teacher survey — can indicate areas of good practice, and suggest aspect of practice to focus on.
- A school audit — can raise awareness about whole-school approaches, and indicate areas of good practice and areas to be developed.
- A school environment survey — can highlight student safe and non-safe places, to and from school and at school.
- Student discussion groups — can enable student voice and promote student agency, and collect ideas from students on activities and ways to address bullying behaviour that work best for them.
- Teacher discussion groups and professional learning sessions — can help develop approaches to addressing bullying behaviours, and suggest enhancements to school activities.
- Parent and whānau survey or consultation — can help understand more about what parents and whānau understand about bullying, identify their information needs, and collect community ideas about how to address bullying.
- Incident reporting and behaviour monitoring — can provide baseline and a document of the number of bullying incidents reported to teachers and how they were dealt with.
- Suspension, expulsion and attendance data — can be used to provide baseline and monitor changes in student outcomes over time.
*These examples are taken from Boyd, S., (May 2011). Wellbeing@School: Building a safe and caring school climate that deters bullying: Overview paper. Wellington: New Zealand Council for Educational Research, p.93.(external link)
Determining whether your school has all the data tools and systems in place is important. You may decide that your school needs to plan for improving its data collection and analysis abilities in order to effectively understand, respond and monitor the effectiveness of your bullying prevention approach.
Students and school staff share the same environment, but they have very different experiences. Bullying can be hidden from adults and school staff often only see and hear a very small percentage of the bullying that's really happening. A school might appear okay, yet have an serious underlying problem with bullying. That’s why it’s important to gather data that will give you the real picture about what’s happening, rather than relying on how things appear on the surface.
The Wellbeing@School survey
The Wellbeing@School tools(external link) have been developed by the New Zealand Council for Education Research (NZCER). They are specifically designed to help schools identify how different aspects of school life contribute to a safe and caring climate that deters bullying. Because they are anonymous, Wellbeing@School surveys give students and staff a safe way of sharing how they genuinely feel about the school.
Wellbeing@School tool can be used to:
- start preparing for change
- gather data to find out what’s really going on
- plan (for example, use the action plan template and modules with practical ideas and resources)
- take action
- review progress.
The best time to use the Wellbeing@School tool is mid-Term 2 (or mid-Term 3). By this time, the school culture and any new focuses have been established for the year and students have settled into school and formed peer groups. If you plan to repeat the surveys in later years, it is important to survey students at the same time each year.
For more on theories of bullying, refer to Wellbeing@School: Building a safe and caring school climate that deters bullying, NZ Council for Education Research, Sally Boyd & Helena Barwick
Involving students in designing an audit of safe and unsafe places around, to and from school can provide a more complete picture of when and where bullying occurs, and complement the information obtained from the Wellbeing@School survey.
Students could design the survey, collate the data and develop solutions to the problems in partnership with teachers. Schools could also approach their local New Zealand Police School Community Officer for help with designing the audit and the problem-solving process with students.
Data is only useful if you do something with it. In the end, data must show your school community where to focus their time and effort. How you present your findings will influence how they are perceived by others.
Boards of Trustees and senior leadership need to understand the size of the problem, but not see it as insurmountable. Here are some tips for presenting data in a way that raises awareness and promotes further action.
Explain how you gathered the data and how you defined the bullying.
This helps people to trust your information. People have different perceptions of what bullying is, so it could help to provide a definition of bullying and explain the different types of bullying.
Present top-level findings, but make further detail available.
Your audience needs to know the important points, but also how much of the information they are receiving. All the assessment information should be made available, if requested, following the presentation.
Be open and honest about the concerns raised by the data.
It is important to not ‘explain away’ negative or surprising findings, but instead use them as a starting point for moving forward. Be explicit about concerns and where your school needs to direct its efforts.
Share any positive findings so people can reflect on what is working well, as well as what needs to change.
Include progress already made and next steps.
Your message will be strengthened if some positive action is already planned to address the highlighted needs.
Consider other presentation options depending on your audience.
If you know decision makers are more visual or oral, infographics or video interviews with students, whānau or staff can be great tools for enlisting support for your bullying prevention efforts.
- S. Boyd, Wellbeing@School: Building a safe and caring school climate that deters bullying Overview paper(external link) “Work in progress” document, New Zealand Council for Educational Research, Updated 26 May 2011, p.91-97
- Wellbeing@School: Building a safe and caring school climate that deters bullying Overview paper(external link) “Work in progress” document (Updated March 2012) Sally Boyd
- Wellbeing@School data tools(external link)
- ERO: The Collection and Use of Assessment Information: Good Practice in Primary Schools – examples of good practise(external link)
- Netsafe Kit for Schools 2018 surveys for use with students, community and teachers(external link)