Towards a bullying-free school culture

1. John Caldwell

caldwell-smlAustralian of the Year 2014 in Victoria, John Caldwell is an anti-bullying advocate and Ambassador for the Alannah and Madeline Foundation. As a victim of bullying throughout his childhood, John is passionate about educating youth on the affects a bully can have on a person and campaigns to spread the anti-bullying message on a global scale. He is actively involved with communities on all levels, from schools to universities doing research into the epidemic, as well as with groups lobbying government.

With suicide now clearly the second largest cause of death in young people in Australia, an increasing number of Australian children are now reporting bullying as their number one social concern. This is no longer a kid’s ‘rite of passage’; it’s an epidemic that is killing our children. You only have to try a Google search on ‘9 year old’, ‘suicide’ or ‘bullying’ and your eyes will fill with tears.

I recently contacted the school my own niece attends to talk to the Principal about her being bullied. Before even hearing the specifics he explained, “there is a big difference between bullying and kids not getting along”. It seems this is now a default answer for some educational institutions.

Education is undoubtedly the key to long-term cultural changes around this issue; however, until attitudes change in the education system towards the severity of these problems, we must continue to advocate, listen and act.

If your child is being bullied:

  • Report it to the school the moment it’s raised
  • Tell your child not to reciprocate
  • Keep a journal of the date, time and specifics of what happened
  • Take the journal back to the school and ask for a formal meeting
  • If the issue continues, take the journal to the authorities.

Find out more about John’s story and his work as an anti-bullying advocate:



2. Leanne Drew-McKain – Towards a bullying-free school culture

drew-mckain-smlCoach Founder and CEO Leanne Drew-McKain is a leading communication coach, highly regarded for her unique ability to build organisational communication culture and develop highest order communication skills in leaders and teams. Responding with fire-in-belly to countless clients eroded by workplace bullying, Leanne has developed her own coaching brand and product suite to build team communication cultures that suffocate the conversational bullying and destructive behaviours that damage our schools and workplaces.

“We spend so much time talking to our students about ‘how we treat each other’ here, yet we never consider how we treat each other back in the staff-room.”

This recent observation from a teacher spotlights a serious problem. International research indicates that one in every three teachers experiences bullying from a colleague.

Indeed, our Coach surveys indicate that 60% of teachers report a high level of stress from bad communication behaviours from colleagues (a further 20% indicated moderate stress levels).

My proposition for you in 2015: The behaviour students emulate is the behaviour teachers educate. Building a bullying-free culture requires a whole-of-school approach.

How do we do that? By talking about how we talk to each other in schools.

  • Engage the whole school to create a communication charter built on respect and courtesy.
  • Empower your charter. Charters don’t have any power if they stay on the wall and website alone. Words are habit-forming. Practising new habits that ‘talk about how we talk to each other’ exposes and shrinks bad behaviour.

The leaders we work with who invest in this process truly move their schools towards a bullying-free culture.

Find out more from Leanne at Coach or education partners QELi at



3. Kathryn Taylor – Towards a bullying-free school culture

kathryn-taylor-smlKathryn Taylor is Director and Owner of Turning Point Consulting Pty Ltd. With more than 16 years of experience in human resources, talent management and career coaching, Kathryn has worked across a range of sectors and specialises in assisting education and corporate clients. Kathryn offers schools, businesses, educators, students, parents and aligned associations support in creating a platform for positive self-evaluation, to support proactive life planning and transition skills. She is an active and involved member of several advisory boards including Wellbeing Australia.

Working across all schools I am fortunate to be party to some exceptional “anti-bullying” or “resilience” programs within the classroom to offer schools a framework of response to issues. However, I rarely see proactive solutions to empower individuals to build resilience within themselves to outweigh external impacts and peer pressures. I do not excuse nor accept bullying and empathise with parents not familiar with these programs and so are unable to utilise them within their homes.

Building resilience through a consistent approach requires collaboration between school staff, students and parents/carers.

  1. Creating a Positive Environment
    Gallup found that 9 out of every 10 people say they are more productive around positive people. Their Australian student poll found 74% of students are engaged in their school life in year 5, reducing to 58% by year 8. Positive psychologists find that positivity breeds positivity, embracing optimism encourages resilience and discourages negative behaviours.
  2. Owning Behaviours
    Renowned psychiatrist Dr William Glasser stated we can only control our behaviours. In focusing on our behaviours we can learn more about the connection between action and outcome, aligning feelings. This connects “bad” behaviours to negative feelings and positive actions to optimistic emotions. In selecting positivity you choose to seek out positive behaviours increasing your overall wellbeing.
  3. Open and Collaborative Communication
    The intention of teachers, parents and students is to work together to benefit the child. With life’s demands this can often be displaced. It is essential to establish a clear focus on resilience through positivity and ownership of behaviours. Sharing this information along with suggestions for parents is critical to an effective path for all, including reflection and communication.

Find out more from Kathryn at Turning Point Consulting