Schools can significantly reduce the impact of bullying and improve pupils’ wellbeing by using a specialised system of conflict resolution and training, according to a ground-breaking study published in the Lancet. The Guardian reports.
The research, led by the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine (LSHTM), was conducted over three years in state schools in the south of England, and is the first of its type to study the use of “restorative practice” within schools, bringing together victims and perpetrators of damaging behaviour.
The academics who wrote the Lancet study, including Prof Russell Viner, the president of the Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, concluded that the £58 cost per pupil to run the programme was likely to achieve “significant impacts” in improving child health and mental wellbeing.
“The message from this is that how we organise our schools to promote students’ welfare should be a key part of any response to concerns about children’s mental health,” said Viner. “None of this was meant to be just about bullying – it was about informing and involving pupils in their school’s behaviour policies, and the use of restorative practices to resolve difficult behaviour.”
The trial followed nearly 6,000 pupils from the age of 11, and found that children in those schools reported less smoking, drinking and use of illegal drugs than their peers in the control group of schools, which did not benefit from the programme.
By the third year, the researchers found small but significant reductions in incidents of bullying, as well as improved mental health. While the programme did not affect levels of aggression, it did have a greater impact on boys, and on students who had been victims of bullying.
Prof Chris Bonell of LSHTM, the lead author of the Lancet article, said the next step was to refine the programme and make it available to more schools. “This study suggests that restorative practice is an effective way to reduce bullying. It also suggests that the government could save the NHS money by helping ensure schools are inclusive and supportive places,” Bonell said.
Read more about the article and how it works Conflict resolution programme ‘improves wellbeing of pupils’
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