Far too many children in Denmark are forced to go to school with stomach cramps and the fear of being excluded due to bullying and other problems they face in the school community. According to the latest Danish national student satisfaction survey, at least two or three students in every Grade 4–9 class have experienced bullying. And other studies suggest that many children are not thriving in school due to other factors, such as not enjoying school or feeling lonely.
This has prompted The Mary Foundation, Børns Vilkår (Children’s Welfare) and Save the Children Denmark to develop a programme to promote well-being in schools – Our School Strength – which is the first of its kind in Denmark to offer a single, unified programme for the whole school to promote well-being and to prevent and address bullying from reception class through to Grade 10.
“Bullying and not thriving at school have alarmingly significant consequences and can end up affecting a child’s entire childhood and plague them far into adulthood. And it’s not something that individual teachers or class teams can solve on their own, although we know how much they strive to do so. What we need is a targeted and sustained effort that involves everyone in and around the school. And that’s exactly what Our School Strength supports schools to develop,” said Secretary-General of Save the Children Denmark, Johanne Schmidt-Nielsen.
Teachers and teaching assistants seek help
There is an evident need for this kind of programme out there, where studies show that teachers and teaching assistants are looking for information about bullying.
As an example, a study conducted by Epinion on behalf of the Danish Ministry of Education shows that 30 per cent of primary schools lack knowledge of how to prevent and stop bullying, and that both schools and parents experience significant challenges when trying to address incidents of bullying.
“Managing bullying is complex, and individual children unfortunately still often end up being scapegoated, despite the fact that most people are aware that bullying and many of the other problems associated with a failure to thrive stem from a counter-productive culture in the class or school. That’s why an important focus of Our School Strength is to strengthen the schools’ and employees’ understanding of the social mechanisms involved and to help them act correctly and quickly when they identify a child who isn’t thriving,” expressed Director of Børns Vilkår, Rasmus Kjeldahl.
Our School Strength is the result of four years’ collaboration within The Alliance against Bullying, which was specifically established to strengthen efforts to promote well-being in Danish schools by combining the three founding organisations’ wealth of experience and knowledge about bullying and other problems that prevent children from thriving in school into a single, comprehensive offering.
The programme builds on research and international experience showing that anti-bullying efforts that involve everyone in and around the school and address multiple levels simultaneously are the most successful.
“In The Alliance against Bullying, we believe that we – in collaboration with the schools – have a better chance of combatting bullying and creating well-being among children in Danish schools, if we do it together. We have used our experience and the competencies we each have to create tools that are even better than any we could have developed individually,” explained the Director of The Mary Foundation, Helle Østergaard.
The programme is currently being rolled out to 16 schools in municipalities including Tårnby, Sorø, Islev, Allerød and Sønderborg – and is already being used in schools in the Copenhagen area. Additional schools and municipalities can join the programme from the 2021/22 school year.
The ongoing development of Our School Strength is funded by donations from Ole Kirk’s Foundation, TrygFonden, The A.P. Møller Foundation and The Mary Foundation.