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Bullying prevention intervention and support training for teachers and school staff

Two bullying prevention interventions – ‘support group method’ and ‘method of shared concern’ – can be used by teachers and school staff.

You can watch step-by-step videos and download practice guides as a quick reference to support you to respond to and reduce bullying.

Supporting students

There are 2 things that can help children and young people feel confident to report bullying:

  • positive relationships with adults and peers at school
  • helping children and young people to help each other.

Building strong and positive relationships

Using the Co-LATE model

The Co-LATE model is a simple technique proven to encourage children and young people to speak to school staff about the things they’re concerned about.

Co-LATE stands for:

  • Confidentiality
  • Listen
  • Acknowledge concerns
  • Talk about options
  • End with encouragement.

See the Co-LATE model practice guidance (PDF 49KB).

Encourage students to be everyday heroes by teaching bystander intervention skills

Teaching bystander intervention skills empowers children and young people to challenge bullying behaviours respectfully and safely. Where this is not safe, it’s important children know how they can discourage the behaviours through not smiling, laughing, or going along with the bullying.

Helping children express empathy and inclusion are also important ways to show support for their friends’ and peers’ safety.

Access additional resources to teach bystander intervention skills from Bullying: No Way:

Helping children and young people to help each other

Two interventions that raise awareness about the impact of bullying and encourage empathy and positive action are:

  • support group method
  • method of shared concern.

These methods are non-blaming, intentionally repair and restore relationships, promote social connectedness, and have a positive impact on the school climate.

The following content has been taken from the third training module, providing effective interventions and support (plink login required). This module aims to upskill teachers with practical ways to successfully intervene in bullying incidents. 

These interventions are not designed for severe or extreme bullying situations. Speak to your site leader for support to handle extreme cases.

Support group method

Support group method introduction transcript

The support group method is a solution-focused intervention that addresses bullying to ensure future respectful behaviours through a series within the group to create behaviour change.

The steps involved are; step 1, a conversation of five steps the facilitator builds empathy with the young person impacted.

Step 2, asking a select group of students to help.

Step 3, holding a support group meeting.

Step 4, monitoring signs of change, and step 5 support group review meetings.

End of transcript.

The support group method uses social dynamics to increase supportive actions by bystanders and increase the likelihood of positive behaviours for all children involved. 

Introducing the 5-step support group method

  1. a conversation with the student impacted 
  2. ask a select group of students to help
  3. hold a support group meeting
  4. monitor signs of change
  5. support group review meeting.

The aim of this method is to change behaviours by raising awareness of the impact bullying is having and building empathy for the person affected. It also increases bystander support and helps to identify covert bullying.

It works best within social groups when:

  • the members of the group desire or need to maintain their relationships
  • the issue is determined as mild or moderate but ongoing
  • educators are able to identify students who can support the person experiencing the bullying.

With this method:

  • it’s not necessary to substantiate the bullying
  • it’s most effective when dealing with covert bullying and when it’s unclear what is motivating the behaviour or who is initiating the behaviour.

Use the following videos and support group method practice guidance (PDF 71KB) to undertake the support group method.

Step 1 – a conversation with the student impacted

  • How is the situation impacting them?
  • Who is involved, including bystanders or witnesses?
  • Who are friends or peers who can support them?

The goal is to understand the impact, not get the incident details.

Step 1 video transcript

Step one: A conversation with a young person impacted. The purpose of this meeting is to determine how the situation is impacting the young person, who is involved including bystanders or witnesses and friends or peers who can support in order to gain agreement to hold a group meeting.

Mariah I hear you've been having a hard time at school, do you want to talk to me about it

I'm not sure it's kind of hard to talk about, do I have to tell you.

You don't have to tell me but perhaps I can help.

Will anyone get into trouble? 

No no one's going to get into trouble we just want to see how we can make things better for you at school.

Well Melissa and Simone have been saying mean things about me behind my back, last week at lunchtime they said some really bad things and I really really didn't like it.

You might initiate this conversation from having spoken with a parent concerned their child is having trouble with a friendship group or is being bullied or it may be following up a concern about a bullying incident reported by students or staff.

It is important to listen, be nonjudgmental and validate feelings, use open-ended questions to further understanding and avoid leading questions that imply blame, such as, what did you do to make her do that.

One of the great benefits of the support group method is that you do not need to verify the bullying and no one is required to own up to what has happened.

This means you can use this method for covert, hidden bullying behaviours when it is not clear who or what is driving the behaviours.

So Mariah it seems like you've been feeling pretty upset most of the time at school, is that why you've been spending so much time in the library?

At least in the library I know I'll be left alone. 

The playground can be a scary place sometimes.

The thought of going out there makes me feel sick I just want to hide.

It's important that everyone feels safe and happy at school, are you keeping up with your schoolwork?

Sometimes in class, I can't stop thinking about it the other day Mrs Jenkins said "are you listening Mariah" and I couldn't remember what she had said it was so embarrassing because everyone just stared.

So it's starting to creep into the classroom as well,

I guess so.

Mariah I know you like to draw.

Yeah drawing makes me feel better sometimes.

Do you think you'd like to write or draw how this has been making you feel?

Focus on the impact rather than the incident details.

Understanding the impact rather than the incident details is necessary for the approach to work, it is an essential element of building empathy later in the process.

Not all children and young people will openly express how they feel.

Ask prompting questions about how they feel about going to school, the impact on their hobbies and activities and the impact on relationships with family or other people.

The idea of drawing can be useful for younger students older students may like to have support to write an impact statement which can be kept on record, this can validate the young person's experience so that they feel supported.

It's sad to hear you're feeling so sad at school, what I'd like to do is get together with Melissa and Simone to see if they understand how this has been impacting you so that we can come together and support you.

Who else could we invite?

Well Sarah is nice to me, but I only play with her sometimes.

Well that sounds good we can invite Sarah, and you know I think Harry and Cooper might like to help as well?

Yeah they've been in my class for a long time.

Oh you must know them pretty well by now.

The support group method draws on the cooperation of those who are involved in the problem including bystanders, as well as supportive friends or peers.

If the young person is struggling to nominate supportive peers you can help by suggesting students who demonstrate peer leadership and positive role modeling, these students form the support group. 

What I'd like to do next is to get Melissa, Simone, Sarah, Harry and Cooper together to come up with  a plan to make things better, does that sound okay?

Do you think I could take your picture with me?

This is going to help me explain how you're feeling about the situation once we've had a chat I'll come back and check in with you.

Alright.

End of transcript.

Step 2 – ask a select group of students to help

  • Approach the students individually.
  • Keep the details of the meeting brief and the details of others joining confidential.

Step 2 video transcript

Step 2. Asking a select group of students to help. It is important to approach students Step two. Asking a select group of students to help. It is important to approach students individually, this is a very brief interaction. 

I've heard Mariah's feeling upset and unsupported at school at the moment, and I thought seeing as 

though you know Mariah you'd be a good person to help.

Yeah I sometimes hang out with Mariah. 

Good, I'm going to get a group of students together tomorrow am I going to meet in the common room just before lunchtime, Miss Jenkins will tell you when to come over.

Who else is going to be there?

Just some students from the year six class, we'll get together we'll have a chat and find a way to make things better for everyone.

It is important not to reveal who else will be at the meeting.

Those students involved in the situation may be surprised why students with no involvement are also there.

This helps to reinforce that no one is to blame so that students provoking the situation are more cooperative.

End of transcript.

Step 3 – hold a support group meeting

  • Move quickly to solutions and encourage others to generate the solutions.
  • To create ownership and increase student empathy, encourage students to develop a shared plan.
  • Do not collect personal accounts of the incidents.

Step 3 video transcript

Step three: Holding a support group meeting.

Thanks everyone for coming today.

As you know my role is to make sure everyone feels safe and included at school.

I'm pretty worried about Mariah at the moment, she said that she feels really upset and unsupported at school and how lonely she is at lunchtime when she doesn't have anyone to talk to in the yard.

So she's drawn this picture for us to show how she's been feeling she's been angry, lonely and sad, a bit separated from her peers.

So I thought seeing as though you guys see Mariah so much you'd be in a good position to help figure out how we can make school a better place for her, so that she feels included.

Does that sound okay with you?

While it's important to explain how the student is feeling don't dwell on it.

As soon as the students are showing signs of empathy move on to solutions.

This involves asking students to identify helpful actions. Start with those students who will likely demonstrate the least resistance, the friends and positive role models.

These actions are then made into a shared plan.

Now that we've got a better idea on how Mariah's been feeling we can come up with a plan on how she can feel more included at school, so I want each of us to come up with some different ideas on what that might be.

Sarah let's start with you. What's something you could do to make her feel more included at school?

I guess I could ask her to hang out with me in the yard. 

That's a great idea, are you alright to give that a try today? And then we'll see if she's feeling a little bit better after that.

What we'll do next to see what you guys can all do to also make her feel included okay.

Tips for handling resistance; reinforce active or positive suggestions with positive praise, clarify any vague suggestions into specific active behaviours, redirect any negative attitudes or comments, and use silence or elongated pauses to prompt suggestions, or come back to the student to give them longer thinking time.

Once students have offered at least one action summarise and wrap up the meeting.

Okay now we've got a plan to move forward to make sure that Mariah's feeling included at school. Sarah, you're going to hang out with Mariah at lunchtime and that's going to start today.

Melissa, you're going to say hi and smile every single day this week. Simone, you're going to sit on the bus with her and that's going to start after school tonight. 

So, Harry, you're going to ask her to play T Ball on the oval on Friday, and Cooper you're going to tell people not to be mean if anything happens again and that'll be whenever you see something happen.

Does that sound like a good plan? Excellent. Me and the other teachers on yard duty are going to be looking out for these signs of improvement so that way we can make sure Mariah's feeling safe and happy at school.

What we'll do next is I'll get everyone to sign the plan Sarah we'll start with you.

End of transcript.

Step 4 – monitor signs of change

  • Keep a record of the shared plan and agreed student actions.
  • Share the recorded plan and student actions to staff so they can watch for positive behaviours and reinforce actions. For example, staff on duty or teachers taking additional lessons.

Step 4 video transcript

Step 4: Monitoring signs of change.

Keeping a record of student actions allows you to monitor signs of change.

It's important to share the action plan with other staff so that they too can be on the lookout for positive behaviours. 

Following the meeting do a quick check-in with the student impacted to let them know that each group member has made a commitment to help and they will soon see positive change.

Mariah the meeting went really well, everyone agreed that no one should feel the way you've been feeling at school and they've agreed to do some actions to make things different.

Over the next week, me and the teachers on yard duty are going to keep an eye out for these changes and I'd like you to keep an eye out for these changes too.

Okay.

If anything happens between now and then you can let me or a teacher on yard duty know. How does that sound?

Awesome.

Fantastic.

This part is important because it lets the student know there is increased adult supervision for safety, it also creates an expectation on the student to look for positive changes.

About one week later check-in to see if the student reports positive signs of improvement. It is only when the student notices positive changes that the support group meets again.

End of transcript.

Step 5 – support group review meetings

  • Review the shared plan.
  • Encourage positive and supportive behaviours.

Step 5 video transcript

Step five; support group review meetings.

The purpose of the review meeting is to hold everyone accountable for their agreements, using the action plan check-in to find out what has happened since the initial meeting.

Allow each person to contribute at least one positive action they have taken if the issue isn't fully resolved or if there is a need to continue with the actions, suggest to the group that they continue for another week.

This is usually sufficient to create positive change from then on you can check in with the group members and the student informally.

End of transcript.

Method of shared concern

The method of shared concern brings together children or young people believed to be involved in a bullying situation. The aim is to disrupt the power dynamics reinforcing the bullying behaviours and help children and young people to help each other.

The method of shared concern:

  • builds empathy
  • involves children developing solutions to address bullying
  • ensures children involved in bullying are accountable for their behaviour without using more traditional disciplinary responses
  • elicits new, positive behaviours to replace problematic ones
  • interrupts harmful power dynamics by emphasising what each person in the group can do.

Method of shared concern video

Method of shared concern video transcript

The method of shared concern is a solution-focused intervention that addresses bullying, to ensure future respectful relationships.

Through a series of five steps, the facilitator intervenes to intentionally disrupt the group bullying dynamics and create behaviour change.

The steps involved are, step one one-on-one conversations with the students involved in the bullying situation.

Step 2 a meeting with the student impacted. 

Step 3 follow up a few days later.

Step 4 a group meeting and 

Step 5 a final summit meeting.

End of transcript.

Introducing the 5 steps involved in the method of shared concern

The 5 steps are:

  1. a 1 on 1 conversation with the students involved
  2. a meeting with the student impacted
  3. a follow-up conversation a few days later
  4. a group meeting
  5. a final summit meeting.

Unlike the support group method, friends or supporters of the impacted child are not involved.

Use the following videos and method of shared concern practice guidance (PDF 65KB) to undertake the method of shared concern.

Step 1 – 1 on 1 conversation with the students involved

  • Separate conversations prevent collusion.
  • Build positive rapport with students involved and generate a sense of empathy for impacted student.
  • Commit to help collaboratively improve the situation.

Step 1 video transcript

Step one: One-on-one conversations with the students involved in the bullying situation.

Step one involves meeting separately with each member of the group suspected of engaging in the bullying behaviours, this allows each person to contribute openly without being influenced by other group members.

It also allows time to build trust and rapport.

The goals of these meetings are to; build understanding and empathy for the student impacted and secure a commitment that the young person will help to improve the situation.

Start with the young person you suspect is the main leader in instigating the bullying behaviours.

Braden thanks for coming to see me, first of all, you're not in any trouble, I've asked here today because it looks like Tate's having a hard time at school, do you know the Tate I'm talking about?

I think I know the Tate you're talking about, but what's he got to do with me?

Well, you see Tate at school right?

Yeah sometimes.

He hasn't been himself lately and I'm getting pretty concerned.

What do you know about Tate's situation? 

I don't know, he seems a little different.

Would you agree he's having a hard time at the moment?

Yeah, maybe.

It's important no one feels that way at school, so I want to see if we can find a plan to make things better for him.

You might initiate this approach when students or staff have witnessed bullying behaviours and a concern for the well-being of the young person impacted.

Reliable information is needed about; who is experiencing the bullying?

This could be a student or a group of students.

Who is engaged in the bullying? Including any bystanders who may be taking on roles to reinforce the behaviours.

Care is needed to make sure that there are no reprisals to the student impacted.

You are not seeking an omission of wrongdoing but an acknowledgement that the person is having a hard time.

This is a very important distinction.

During the conversation with each group member it is important to; be non-judgmental, avoid leading questions that imply blame, such as, why don't you just leave him alone? Focus on getting the student to acknowledge that the situation is having a negative impact.

As soon as you have acknowledgement that the situation is not good, move on to explore solutions.

Okay, so you know Tate's having a bit of a hard time at the moment, I wonder if there's anything you can do to make it better?

Well kids hassle him on the bus sometimes.

That's not good, I can see how he'd be feeling pretty upset about that.

I wondered if there's anything you can do to make it better for him?

I guess I could tell them to cut it out if I hear it.

Yes that'd be excellent, I think it'd be really important for him to know that there's someone looking out for him.

Can I trust you to do that? Thanks so much.

It's okay if the student doesn't acknowledge their involvement in the bullying.

You just need them to acknowledge that the other student is having a hard time and that they can help.

Let the student know that you will check in with them again in a few days to see how they are getting on.

Meet with all group members including bystanders to encourage them to take on more supportive roles.

Cooper what do you think you could do to make things better for Tate? Be nicer to him.

And how would you do that? Look out for him, make sure no one's hassling him.

And if someone is hassling him, what do you think you could do?

Tell them to cut it out like stop causing trouble.

It sounds pretty sensible, can I rely on you to do that? 

So I've been chatting with you and some other students as well, and we've come up with a bit of a plan to try and make things better for Tate, but I'd like to check back in in a few days and make sure everything's going along okay.

Would that be alright with you?

Sure.

Great.

Meeting the students separately helps to counteract resistance and improve cooperation, however, in some situations students may still be resistant.

Tips for handling resistance; use silence or elongated pauses to prompt suggestions.

Reinforce active or positive suggestions with positive praise.

Clarify any vague suggestions into specific active behaviours, and redirect any negative attitudes or comments.

If no suggestions are offered, tell the students that you will check in again later in the day.

This lets them know that they are required to contribute.

Once you have spoken with all students in the group the next step is to approach the young person who is experiencing the bullying.

End of transcript.

Step 2 – a meeting with the student impacted

  • Listen and be non-judgemental.
  • Acknowledge the situation isn't good and you have agreed to help.
  • Ask open-end questions to allow the student to tell their side of the story.  

Step 2 video transcript

Step two: A meeting with the student impacted. 

Thanks for coming to see me Tate. My role is to make sure everyone feels safe and included at school.

I hear you've been having a bit of a hard time lately.

How would you know?

Well, people tend to look out for each other here, and sometimes if someone's having a hard time I find out about it.

It's not a big deal.

No-one's going to be in any trouble, I just want to see if we can find a way to make things better for you.

Well, some other boys are making my life hell, they won't leave me alone.

The other day at the canteen, they pushed through me, took my lunch money, and they just did nothing to help me.

I'm really sorry to hear that's been happening.

That must be hard. Is it happening every day?

Yeah.

Give time for the person to talk about their experiences and validate their feelings.

It's important to; listen and be non-judgmental. Use open-ended questions to further understanding.

And avoid using leading questions that imply blame, such as what did you do to make him do that?

I'm sorry to hear that's been happening at the canteen and why you've been feeling so upset at school. 

Is that why you've been missing classes?

In Science, they stare and laugh and crack jokes between themselves. I know it's about me.

It's not good for this situation to continue because it can really affect your grades.

It's not just Science, they've started being mean to me online, telling people to block me.

It must really hurt.

Yeah, it's like I can't get away from it.

But dealing with it at home and at school would be really challenging hey?

Yeah.

Now, I've spoken to Braden and Cooper, they've agreed to make some changes and show you more support.

They have?

They have. We've had a chat and we want to give them a chance to make it right, so over the next few days we're going to be looking at some positive changes, and we'll check back in and make sure that it's happening, would that be okay?

End of transcript.

Step 3 – follow up a few days’ later

  • Provide discreet supervision, for example in transition points such as the hallway or isolated places like the oval.
  • Follow-up conversations with students to see if the students involved are making positive changes.
  • Issue punishments if students haven't played their part.

Step 3 video transcript

Step three: Follow up a few days later.

Indiscreet supervision may need to be increased in key places, such as the canteen, hallways and transition points, while the plan is being implemented.

Several days later, follow-up meetings with each of the group members are held to check on progress.

These are kept very brief to make sure students have carried out the actions that they said they would do.

Braden it's been a few days since our chat and I wanted to check in and see how have you gone with those tasks that we discussed?

Yeah, good. 

What's been happening?

Well, some kids started on Tate and bus the other day, I told them to cut it out.

Thanks so much for doing that, I'm sure he really appreciated it. It's good that you've been looking out for him, I'm sure it's been helping.

When you are confident that there are positive changes from all the students involved, check in again with the student impacted to find out how 

the situation is from their perspective.

When you are satisfied that the situation has moved in a positive direction, move on to the next step.

End of transcript.

Step 4 – a group meeting

  • Discuss actions each student took.
  • Observations of how the impacted student is feeling.
  • Provide visible and specific positive reinforcement to continue the changes.

Step 4 video transcript

Meet with all group members to discuss the situation together.

At the group meeting, each group member is asked to say what they have done to try to improve the situation.

This meeting is kept brief and is intended to build on the positive changes that have already occurred.

So I wanted to get together after our individual chats and check on our progress, how's things been going for Tate?

He seems happier.

Seems happier? That's really good, must mean our actions are making a difference. 

Does anyone else want to share what they've been doing?

Well, on Friday some kids tried starting on him on the bus again, I told him to cut it out and I think it actually worked.

That's great to hear, I'm sure he really appreciated it.

Does anyone else want to share what they've been doing?

Students are then asked to keep up the positive changes.

The next step is optional depending upon whether further monitoring and follow-up is needed, or, the student impacted is willing to attend a meeting with the whole group.

End of transcript.

Step 5 – a final summit meeting

  • The teacher's role continues as facilitator. Open the discussion by highlighting positive changes and how to build on them.
  • Agree positive actions will continue.
  • Weave student ownership and voice throughout the summit.
  • Give the impacted student permission to leave if they feel uncomfortable.

Step 5 video transcripts

 

Step five: A final summit meeting.

The purpose of this meeting is to bring everyone together to highlight the positive changes that have occurred and to build on this for the future.

It involves formalising an agreement between the students to continue positive actions.

Thanks everyone for coming, there's already been some signs of positive change and today we're going to make some commitments to keep that happening.

In a moment we're going to invite Tate to join us and share what we've been doing, he might be feeling a little bit nervous, can you guys think of anything we could do to make  him feel more welcome?

Say hi.

Yeah, sounds like a great idea.

Can we agree to do that?

Cooper, could you go and get Tate please? Thank you.

Hey Tate.

Hi.

Thanks for joining us today, Tate. We've been talking and we've all agreed that no one should feel the way you've been feeling at school at the moment, and there's already been some signs of positive change.

We wanted to get together and make sure that you knew what everyone's commitment was to make things better for you at school. 

Would you guys like to share with Tate what you've agreed to do?

You know those kids that hassle you on the bus? I'll tell them to stop, if I hear it.

I'll say hi when I see you in the yard.

I'm going to help you with like any homework you need to be helped with.

Does that sound like a good place to start?

Thanks so much everyone for your commitment, I'm sure Tate will be feeling much more supported at school, and we can keep these positive changes happening.

It is important to recognise that the student impacted by the bullying may feel threatened or anxious at the summit meeting.

It is a good idea to rehearse with the group what they might say, to put the affected student at ease when they join the group.

Formalising actions into an agreement.

Okay, it's important to keep up this good work.

What do you think about making an agreement to keep our commitment and focus on the positive changes so far?

Yeah, it would mean that we can say "Hey you weren't sticking to the agreement" if someone's not doing it properly. 

That sounds like a great idea Cooper.

What else do you think we could do?

Well, I guess if things got tough again, we could tell you and have another discussion as a group to revise the agreement.

That sounds great, does that sound good Tate?

Excellent.

It's a good idea to include in the plan how students will keep each other accountable and what to do if someone isn't keeping up with their agreements.

The agreement can be revisited after a few weeks to make sure it's working.

End of transcript.

Bullying prevention training course

The full bullying prevention training course (plink login required) helps you discover practical ways to successfully intervene in bullying instances. You’ll explore 2 evidence-based interventions to resolve and prevent future bullying.

Engagement and Wellbeing Directorate

Phone: 8226 0859
Email: education.engagementandwellbeing [at] sa.gov.au