What do we need?

Questions and checklists for Boards of Trustees

On this page:

A whole-school approach

A whole-school approach brings everyone together — the board, school staff, students, parents and whānau, and the broader community — to work on creating a safe, inclusive and accepting school environment where everyone feels a sense of belonging.

When everyone works together for a safe, inclusive and accepting school, children and young people receive consistent messages and responses about bullying and positive relationships. Supporting a whole-school approach comes from the top and boards have an important role in championing this approach and making sure everyone can get involved. Implementing a whole-school approach takes time.

idea Important points for a whole school approach

  • How your school defines a whole-school approach matters. While many schools believe they already have whole-school practices, it's easy to make assumptions about what school community members need, consider input only from certain members, or view some individual opinions as representative of everyone in the community.
  • Sustaining relationships is a must. Your school population changes every year. Consider what you are putting in place to involve new members of your school community.

questionsQuestions for the Board

1 Do we have an agreed definition of bullying that is clearly understood by our school community?
2 Do we maintain a safe physical and emotional environment in our school? How do we know?
3 What priority, as a school, do we place on promoting the wellbeing of our students?
4 Do we have a good understanding of why all students need to be included in our school’s approach to bullying?
5 Are we working in partnership with parents/carers, other schools and community partners to promote safe communities?
6 Is there anything we would like to change about the way our school prevents and addresses bullying? If so, how would we go about making these changes?
7 Have we made sure our bullying prevention and response policy can be easily accessed by the whole school community?
8 Do students receive information about what they can do to prevent bullying and what to do if bullying is occurring?
9 Do families and whānau receive information about their role in preventing bullying and what to do if bullying is occurring?


    yes no unsure
1 The board, school staff, students, parents and whānau, and the broader community have a shared understanding of what bullying is.
2 We are committed to a whole-school approach to ensure a positive, safe and inclusive school environment that includes all staff and students.
3 Our school promotes a clear, well-defined, agreed understanding that bullying is not acceptable behaviour.
4 Our school recognises that bullying behaviour can be reduced in the school environment and acknowledges it is everyone’s responsibility.
5 We enable and encourage all members of our school community (staff, students, families) to actively participate in planning and decision making about school action to reduce bullying.
6 Bullying prevention and response is linked to existing priorities in our school.
7 Any 'disruptions' occurring inside and outside the school environment that will influence the success of our school's actions to reduce bullying are acknowledged and ways to overcome these are discussed.


Leadership is critical. The most effective schools have the support of their senior leadership team and at least one senior staff member co-ordinating their bullying prevention efforts. The principal should create and empower a leadership team that focuses on all aspects of school safety, including bullying, and school climate.

The board has a critical role in setting the vision and expectations for a climate that supports a whole-school approach and collective responsibility for bullying prevention. Decisions that a school's leadership team makes (or doesn't make) can have a considerable impact on a school's subsequent bullying prevention efforts.

ideas  Leadership of a safe and supportive school is characterised by:

  • strong commitment
  • communication of a clear and sustainable vision
  • access to resources
  • designated staff with responsibilities
  • actions that translate the commitment into practice
  • a cycle of regular review.

question mark Questions for the Board

1 Do we all share the same understanding of bullying? How do we know?
2 How can we demonstrate that this is a priority and support our school community to co-ordinate bullying prevention efforts?
3 As leaders, do we model the behaviours we want to see?

tick Checklist

    yes no unsure
1 We recognise that leadership, which is committed to a shared vision through policy and practice, is essential for establishing a safe and supportive school environment. circle circle circle
2 The whole school community understands the role they place and the actions they can take in preventing and responding to bullying. circle circle circle
3 All staff, students and families know what to do if someone has a concern about bullying. circle circle circle
4 Our students are encouraged and given support to be positive leaders and role models in their school community (e.g. by speaking up about issues such as bullying). circle circle circle
5 Parents/carers have confidence our school will take any complaint about bullying seriously, investigate/resolve as necessary and will deal with the bullying in a way that protects their child. circle circle circle

A positive school environment where all students are accepted

School climate means the learning environment and relationships within a school community. A positive school climate is a crucial component in preventing bullying behaviour. This is when all members of the school community feel safe, included and accepted, and actively promote positive behaviours and interactions.

A school’s culture is shaped by the school community, including its leaders, educators, students, parents and whānau. Encouraging positive values such as respect, trust and fairness are the foundation stones which ultimately drive the vision of what the school community wants to achieve. Promoting connections to school for students, staff and families, in an environment where they feel emotionally and physically safe, is part of a positive school culture.

Central to a positive school culture is respectful relationships across the entire school community. This includes relationships amongst peers (e.g. student to student, teacher to teacher, between board members) and relationships between groups (e.g. teachers and students, parents and teachers, etc). A key factor is an ethos that bullying is not tolerated, with action taken to actively prevent or respond immediately and effectively if it does occur.

No single solution can guarantee a positive school climate. Success requires an ongoing, comprehensive and collaborative effort on the part of everyone involved.

ideas  A supportive school culture:

  • provides safety
  • values difference
  • encourages open communication
  • supports a sense of connectedness with the school
  • protects students from the risks of bullying.

ideas  Involving the whole school is important:

  • Bullying behaviour can either be accepted by the community, or it can be understood by the community as not acceptable and not appropriate. 
  • Each person in the school community has an important role to play. 
  • School leaders play a significant role in championing a safe and supportive environment across the whole school. 
  • Students are the key players in their school’s efforts to respond to bullying and can provide critical leadership for new initiatives to create positive learning environments for everyone. 
  • Parents and whānau contribute to bullying prevention efforts by supporting their children and participating in school activities and approaches. 
  • The wider community can play an important role in strengthening the school’s bullying prevention messages.

question mark Questions for the Board


Does the school have strong values which promote messages of inclusion and respect?

2 Are there regular opportunities to promote inclusion and respect for diversity, as well as send bullying prevention messages?
3 Do we actively provide systematic opportunities for developing out students' social and emotional skills to reduce bullying?
4 Do we regularly consult with our students to find out what is happening in relation to bullying and whether our preventative strategies and responses are working, as well as gathering their ideas for new methods to tackle bullying?
5 How are parents and whānau included in opportunities to promote a positive school community and support the school's bullying prevention efforts?
6 Have unsafe areas of the school, where bullying is more likely to happen, been identified? Have steps been taken to make these areas safer?

tick Checklist

    yes no unsure
1 We have an agreed statement confirming our school community's expectations about creating a safe, positive environment. circle circle circle
2 Positive social values such as respect, trust, fairness and celebration of diversity are promoted across or school community. circle circle circle
3 All students, staff members and parents feel—and are—safe, included and accepted. circle circle circle
4 Difference is actively and visibly celebrated and welcomed across the whole school. circle circle circle
5 Our school has a process for recognising groups of students or individuals who may be more at risk of bullying (e.g. students with previous experiences of bullying, LGBTI students, students with a disability). circle circle circle
6 We promote a positive school culture where bullying is not tolerated and cannot flourish. circle circle circle

Policy and procedures

Establishing clear policy and practice is the first step in managing bullying within a school.

Schools with clear and consistent policy and procedures send a strong message to the whole school community about their beliefs and actions to support a safe and supportive school environment.

Your school should have a policy that clearly defines what bullying is so the whole school community has a shared understanding of bullying behaviour. You should clearly state that the school deos not accept bullying and your policy should set out how your school community will address it. This might be part of a broader policy, for example a positive behaviour or safe school policy, or it may be a specific bullying prevention policy.

However, having a bullying prevention and response policy alone will not reduce bullying.

ideas  To be effective, policies need to be:

  • developed with the involvement of students
  • promoted to the whole school community
  • implemented consistently
  • monitored regularly.

Approached this way, a proactive policy provides a framework for the prevention, early response and management of bullying behaviour.

A well-developed school policy which includes clear procedures and sets out everyone's role will ensure your school is ready to respond effectively to any incidents of bullying behaviour.

ideas  It's important that the whole school community has a good understanding of the goals and content of your bullying prevention and response policy:

The policy should state that:

  1. Your school recognises the very serious nature of bullying and the negative impact that it can have on students.
  2. Your school is fully committed to the following key principles of best practice in preventing and tackling bullying behaviour:
    • A positive school culture and environment which:
      • welcomes difference and diversity, and is based on inclusion
      • encourages students to disclose and discuss incidents of bullying behaviour in a non-threatening environment
      • promotes respectful relationships across the school community.
    • A shared understanding of what bullying is and its impact.
    • Consistent recording, investigation and follow-up of bullying behaviour.
    • Ongoing evaluation of the effectiveness of your bullying prevention policy.

Make sure the policy is regularly highlighted and promoted on a school-wide basis, with particular attention being given to incoming students and their parents. Information on bullying should be provided in student-friendly, age-appropriate formats and be displayed around the school.

question mark Questions for the Board


Does our bullying prevention policy clearly identify what bullying is and what bullying is not?

2 Is everyone in our school community aware of the school policy and procedures that address bullying?
3 Is the current policy to address bullying effective? Why or why not?
4 What tools have we considered using to assess the success of our policies (e.g. ERO wellbeing for success indicators)?
5 Do our policies explicitly include cyber-bullying?
6 Are we following the most up-to-date advice (e.g. from NetSafe) and keeping pace with changes in digital technology and social media?
7 How have we consulted with students about our bullying prevention policy? 
How widely have we consulted and communicated with parents/carers and the community?

tick Checklist

    yes no unsure
1 We have a clear bullying prevention and response policy, developed in collaboration with staff, students, parents/carers and whānau which addresses all forms of bullying (including cyber-bullying). circle circle circle
2 All students and their parents/carers understand how to report incidents of bullying. circle circle circle
3 Our school staff participate in professional development to help them recognise the early signs of bullying and respond effectively. circle circle circle
4 There are clearly defined processes for staff to respond to incidents of bullying. circle circle circle
5 Our bullying prevention policy is reviewed regularly and our students participate in the process. circle circle circle
6 Our bullying prevention policy extends beyond the school gates and into the local community, including transport to and from school and other settings. circle circle circle


You need a clear picture of the nature and extent of any bullying issues in your school so you can plan an appropriate response. You also need information that can show if your bullying prevention approachers are meeting your school's identified needs and are effective.

Students and school staff share the same environment, but they have very different experiences. For students, bullying in schools is prominent - it's loud and clear. Staff though may only see and hear a very small percentage of the bullying that is happening. These separate experiences can create a 'blind spot' where bullying can flourish can flourish; recognised by students, but hidden from staff.

If your school community doesn't see or hear the problem of bullying, it's hard for it to believe that bullying is an issue.

Determining the real level of bullying in a school is a positive preventative step. Knowing the true picture allows corrective steps to the taken. Schools need a way to get data that will tell the real story about bullying. They can not relay on how things look or feel on the surface.

ideas  Important reasons for schools to collect data on bullying:

  • Often students do not want to report bullying and are reluctant to talk to adults. Students fear not being believed or that adults will not deal with their concerns in an appropriate or thoughtful way. Different understandings of what constitutes bullying may also contribute to a failure to report. This means that many students remain isolated with potentially significant negative impacts on their wellbeing. It also clearly affects data sources. A lack of reliable reporting could potentially misinform recommendations because they are based only on the experiences of those who are willing to report bullying.
  • Accurate data can make the bullying that students experience or witness visible and real to school staff. It is an essential tool for gaining staff commitment to improving the school environment and student learning.
  • Data informs schools about the types of responses that are effective in reducing and preventing bullying, enabling the school to direct resources where they will make a positive difference.

Wellbeing@School survey tools

The Wellbeing@School survey tools have been developed by the New Zealand Council for Education Research. The surveys are specifically designed to help school identify how different aspects of school life contribute to a safe and caring climate that deters bullying. The tools include one section which explores student and teacher perceptions of bullying behaviour at theirs school. Because they are anonymous, Wellbeing@School surveys give students and staff a safe way of sharing how they genuinely feel about their school.

For more information, visit the Wellbeing@School(external link) website for information survey tools.

question mark Questions for the Board


Do we have a reliable way of measuring bullying in our school?

2   Do we keep a record of bullying incidents, according to our agreed definition, and analyse it for patterns - students, places, groups?
3   Do we regularly canvass our students' views on the extent and nature of bullying? Do we make sure they know how to express worries about bullying?
4   How are we collecting information about whether the bullying prevention practices in our school are working?
5   How do we review progress and measure its success?

tick Checklist

    yes no unsure
1 The school conducts regular (at least annually) anonymous student and staff surveys to evaluate and inform school action to reduce bullying, and reports the outcomes to the board. circle circle circle
2 Our school records all bullying incidents and this information ise used to understand the impact and responses to bullying in our school. circle circle circle
3 We consult students regularly to monitor and determine the types of behaviour and in what school and social contexts bullying (including cyber-bullying) occurs. circle circle circle
4 We have a safe and confidential way for students to report incidents of bullying. circle circle circle