8 Success Factors for Bullying Prevention in Schools

Successful bullying prevention work in schools needs to be systematic, continuous and with a long-term approach. The efforts also need to be based on:

Mapping & Analysis
– Identify underlying causes and areas/goals to focus on

– Implement short- and long-term measures
– Specify what to do – when, by whom, and how to involve the students

Follow up
– Evaluate: Did the efforts have the desired effect or do we need to make adjustments to them, or develop new measures?


8 success factors

1. Create trusting relationships

This is what research finds being the most important factor. Safe, warm and trusting relationships between teachers and students lay the foundation for successful acute, as well as preventive efforts. Warm relationships make students more inclined to act against bullying, and also increase their willingness to confide in an adult when they or others are being treated badly.

Each student should have at least one adult at school whom they trust. Examples of how to promote it could be that all staff members have lunch together with the students every day, and/or rolling schedule during breaks/recess so that there are always adults present among the students.

2. Start with your own organization

What does it look like at your school? Surveys of various kinds are critical for identifying what needs to be done. Questionnaires, observations, dialogues and workshops with students and parents/guardians are examples of how to conduct a survey. All measures need to be based on the individual school’s needs and challenges. It is important to constantly assess the climate and culture at the school, be aware of what risk areas exist, and bring issues into the open.

3.  Focus on the school culture and the school climate

The school climate is about a school’s impact on students through teaching practices, diversity and relationships among administrators, teachers, parents, and students. The culture is about how teachers and other school staff are working together, and the values, beliefs, and assumptions they share.

A positive school climate and school culture promote the students’ learning abilities.

A school can be characterized by a culture of conflict due to authoritarian leadership, conflicting power structures or hierarchical communication channels. This counteracts a more positive, interactive, democratic, and respectful culture. A widespread culture of silence may also contribute to a high prevalence of bullying. A culture that rests on fundamental democratic values promotes a student’s ability to interact with other students in a way that is characterized by respect, thus making students feel safe and enabling them to develop self-confidence and self-esteem.

4.  Skill development 

Knowledge and a joint approach/consensus among all (staff and students) about the nature, causes and prevalence of bullying lead to improved skills in intervening and preventing it from happening. A joint approach is where everyone knows when to act and in what way, and this is done regardless of when and where it happens or who is involved.

5.  A whole school approach

Fundamental for effective bullying prevention work is that everyone is involved; Management and staff, students, and parents/guardians. This cannot be something that is only scheduled for specific theme days or certain lessons. It’s about bringing the work alive by integrating it into all subjects and classes, and a cross-disciplinary approach, to keep the work current and let it permeate the entire school culture and climate.

6.  Practice what you preach

A crucial part of succeeding with the work to create a bully-free school is that the students have confidence in the bullying prevention efforts, and feel that the staff practice what they preach and are the role models they want the students to be.

It’s important that the initiative is not only something you work with in class, but something that truly permeates the behavior of all adults at the school.

7.  Create clarity

This involves having a long-term plan, clear and committed leadership, consensus among the staff, and clear roles/responsibilities and procedures for what to do when something happens. It may, for example, involve a teacher who needs to discuss racism in their class, and also knows which colleague has the expertise, or that staff members know how to act in instances of degrading treatment.

8.  Involve the students

In schools where students have a large degree of influence and a high participation rate students obtain higher grades and the prevalence of bullying is lower. It is important the students are actively involved in drafting the code of conduct and discussing measures, both concerning the school and their class. This increases the probability that they will perceive the efforts as credible and relevant to their day-to-day lives, since they have sanctioned them themselves.

It’s also important that students learn strategies and receive help to develop different alternative actions when they are negatively treated or see someone else being bullied. Research shows that students who have knowledge of how to act when they see degrading treatment tend to act accordingly when it is happening, either then and there, or by telling an adult about it.