What makes a safe and supportive school?

What makes a safe and supportive school?

Thursday, 11 June 2015  | Di - Assistant Principal - Primary
What are your memories of your school life?

Are they happy ones where you felt safe and supported? Did you feel connected to the school community and were you able to thrive and learn eagerly?

Or are your memories marred by experiences where you didn’t feel supported or safe? Were you anxious, unable to learn well and sometimes did not even feel that your personal safety was being looked out for?

We know that children learn best when they are comfortable, when they feel safe and when they are supported by meaningful relationships. A safe school is a supportive learning community where all students feel safe and are safe. In such a school everyone knows what is expected and there is the highest level of consideration of others.

When you reflect on your own experience you may realise now that your happy or unhappy experiences actually affected your ability to learn and flourish at school. You may also see how this impacts you working through issues with your own children in relation to them feeling socially connected and safe at school. Our experiences do impact us greatly.

It is pleasing to know that safe and supportive schools are something that all in our community want to work towards and that this is being given a top priority by government and educational bodies. We are no longer living with a ‘she’ll be right’ mentality. Schools want to strategically and intentionally be safer and more inclusive and focus on student well being.

The National Safe Schools Framework (NSSF) defines a safe and supportive school as one where the risk from all types of harm is minimised, diversity is valued and all members of the school community feel respected and included, and can be confident that they will receive support in the face of any threats to their safety or wellbeing.

The framework recognises that there is a strong interconnection between student safety and student wellbeing and learning. When harassment, aggression, violence and bullying exist there is less likely to be a caring, respectful and supportive teaching and learning community. When students feel connected to their school and have positive and respectful relationships with peers and teachers, they feel confident about their social and emotional skills and satisfied with their learning. (NSSF 2011).

This all seems pretty logical and achievable, but we know that this is not always the case and that we all need to be highly intentional to create such environments. There is some excellent work being done in our community to build capacity in young people. The Safe Schools hub speaks of the interconnectedness of community and that when all parties work together - boards, leadership, parents, teachers, students we can create an environment that is inclusive and connected with positive relationships as the key.

There is a lot we can learn and common grace would tell us that much of this work has origins in God’s plans for humanity to live and work together in love. We also know that if these ideals do not sit within a frame it is hard to sustain them. Can people just be good, kind and connected without any underlying values or beliefs? Can values exist in a vacuum? What will be the drivers of that good will toward other people and what will assist students and staff to work at respectful and responsible behaviours toward each other?

At MECS we believe that every child is uniquely created in God’s image. Every child and adult is part of the rich tapestry of life. We value inclusion and connectedness because of who we are in Christ. We believe that true connectedness and right relationship with each other comes from the Father. It is God who established relationship with us through his son. God holds together the fragile bonds of our relationships with others. We know that we muck up and we can’t maintain good relationship left to our own selfish desires. God displays his forgiveness toward us and we in turn offer and accept forgiveness to others. We strongly believe that when wrong is done there is opportunity for growth, forgiveness and fresh starts just as God offers to us.

Over these last few weeks the Primary leaders have been exploring further what it means for us to be a safe and supportive school. We are part of an Independent Schools Victoria project called ‘Good to Great Classrooms’. By registering our school on the Safe School’s hub website we were able to undertake an audit of how we are doing in this area. It was pleasing to know there are lots of good things happening at MECS. There are also things for us to work on.

How can we all work together to continue to provide a safe, inclusive school? As MECS Primary we:
use Restorative Practice for dealing with discipline and pastoral issues. (Find out more about this by checking the MECS website - Primary section.) This involves follow up when wrong has been done - working together on helping children grow, change and be transformed by seeking restoration and forgiveness.

expect consideration for others in the form of polite and respectful behaviours both at school and at home.

pray. We are all in this task together - parents, students and teachers and we need to rely on God. We can’t do this in our own strength.

encourage working through issues and being willing to face painful events and memories and find healing.

encourage gratitude and thankfulness for the good things God has given us each day.

grow in emotional understanding and ability to handle tough stuff.

build strong relationships with each other that model respectful and responsible behaviours.

continue to partner together to build a strong positive community

“So in Christ we, though many, form one body, and each member belongs to all the others. We have different gifts according to the grace given to each of us…Love must be sincere…Be devoted to one another in brotherly love. Honour one another above yourselves.”
Romans 12:5-10

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