A Whole School Approach In Creating Safe School Environment
By Swaleha Sindhi
14 September, 2013
‘Safe and supportive schools’ refers to the provision of an environment that protects the emotional, psychological and physical well-being of students. In a ‘safe school environment children are to be protected from verbal, physical, emotional and sexual abuse, including indirect forms of abuse, such as discrimination, exclusion and isolation by their peers. So a safe school is one that is free from danger and possible harm, where non-educators, educators and learners can work, teach and learn without fear or ridicule, intimidation, harassment, humiliation or violence. A safe, clean, and well-maintained school with a positive psychosocial climate and culture can foster school connectedness, which in turn boost student and staff health as well as students’ educational achievement. Creating a healthy school environment requires the involvement of virtually everyone in the school; students, administrators, teachers, parents, school counselors, and kitchen staff. Thus, creating and sustaining a healthy school environment requires commitment from everyone. As with any systemic reorganization, change takes time; sometimes years over the time, schools will identify problems, then analyze them and make necessary changes. Even as schools find successful solutions to one set of problems, new challenges arise. Thus, a school’s attention to the safety of its environment will evolve and adapt to changing circumstances, while never losing sight of educating their students.
Role of Principals/Leaders
The main mark of a successful leader is not his or her impact on the bottom line of student learning at the end of their tenure, but rather how many good leaders they leave behind who can go even further. It is important for the school leaders to be very clear about their personal capacities and that where they want the capacity to reside. What capacity they are trying to build for the short term as well as the long term; and how to coordinate capacity building across organizational boundaries. If a system wants to ensure alignment and coherence, it has to build structures and cultures where coordinated learning occurs and where messages and actions become consistent within and across roles and organizational levels; not a sealed off consistency but one in which problems are confronted and new learning’s are incorporated as you go. So the principal’s role is crucial in an organization to implement the safe and secure school culture and involve the whole school in an endeavor of creating a safe and sustainable environment.
Whole School Approach
Whole school approach for managing safe school environment requires all members of the school community to work together. It focuses on: Prevention through school safety education and safe and supportive environments; and Intervention to provide appropriate support for student’s safety. Safety issues should be approached within the context of a school’s student welfare policy with clear links to other related school policies such as the discipline policy. The whole school approach provides a systematic and practical framework which schools can use to manage safety issues and to ensure that the well-being and individual needs of all students is supported. Schools should be secure and welcome places where students and teachers are able to engage in the teaching learning process in an environment of security, free of fear or threats of any sort. As safety is freedom from danger or harm and prevention is an important element of safety; everyone needs to know how to act safely in dangerous situations. Acting sensibly in emergency situations can sometimes save a life. For example, every school should have a plan for escaping from the school building in case of natural disaster. Schools must lay down precise policy regarding behavior expectations from students and teachers and formulate a gentle discipline policy and a safety core group to monitor and oversee activities related with school safety. There are schools that have teachers and students representatives in schools discipline committee. This committee work on framing the discipline rules for the school and deal with day to day disciplinary actions, excellent part of such committees is that they involve students in decision making and framing of rules. Such committees come up with innovative ideas of how to minimize indiscipline acts in the school.
It’s time for educators and all other interested in the cause of education, to deliberate over how safe our schools are, and the extent to which they offer a safe school environment to the children to fulfill the cherished promise of ‘educating’ them, and most importantly the kind of future nation being created in our schools”. Safety is a multidimensional concept and safe schools need to come up with a ‘Safe School Plan’. It is the government, parents, schools and the wider community that have a role to play in reducing the harm that can arise from unsafe environment. The role of the school in the prevention and intervention of safe school environment related issues is enhanced when a whole school approach is used. Dealing with issues related to safety is complex and requires a comprehensive and complementary approach. School communities need to take action to promote school safety, and to be able to respond appropriately to the harm that may arise. Schools can assist students to build resilience which will strengthen their capacity to cope with change and with circumstances they confront in their lives. The whole school approach should incorporate links to the curriculum, school policy, school ethos and values, interpersonal relationships, effective partnerships with parents and services in the wider community. Fundamental to improving the capacity of school communities to respond to school safety is the development of a policy, or a range of policies, that address safety in schools. Such an approach will allow all members of the school community to identify and implement both appropriate safety education programs, and agreed and understood procedures for handling safety in the schools.
(Swaleha Sindhi is an Assistant Professor in The M.S.University of Baroda, Gujarat & Mr.Adfer.R.Shah is a Research Assistant at the Sarojini Naidu Centre of women’s Studies New Delhi, Email: email@example.com)
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