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By promoting positive, sustainable, whole-school improvement, Friendly Schools helps school communities to build their own capacity for change. It enables schools to assess the social and emotional wellbeing of their students, examine their existing strategies for bullying prevention, identify strengths and areas in need of improvement and then address these gaps using extensively tested strategies. This process is supported by a range of evidence-based resources tested and found to be effective in many different types of Australian schools.

Friendly Schools aims to increase awareness, understanding and use of the key skills to build students’ personal and social capability, including self-awareness and self-management and social awareness and social management to enhance pro-social, and discourage anti-social behaviour. It also focusses on whole school strategies to reduce all forms of bullying including strategies to engage with families, build a positive school climate, develop clear policies that encourage positive social behaviours including encouraging upstander behaviour and also actions the school will take in response to bullying behaviour; enhancing the schools’ physical environment to encourage positive behaviour.

Although school leaders, teachers, students and parents will all find unique benefits when using Friendly Schools to support their school’s wellbeing policies and practices, the central goal of Friendly Schools implementation is to unite the school community to create and maintain a friendly, positive and safe school culture and environment and positive wellbeing outcomes for students and staff.

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Friendly Schools’ implementation outcomes include:

  • Providing all students with opportunities to develop and practise positive social and emotional skills through classroom and co-curricular teaching and learning activities
  • Creating a positive social environment within our schools that actively encourages pro-social behaviour and discourages bullying
  • Enhancing the school grounds and supervision during breaktimes to encourage and enable pro-social behaviour and discourage bullying
  • Encouraging all staff, students and parents to treat all school community members with respect and inclusivity, celebrating difference
  • Implementing a clear and consistent approach to managing anti-social behaviour, especially bullying incidents
  • Providing parents with resources and strategies to help build their children’s social and emotional wellbeing and enhance their communication with their children about bullying

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Bullying is a learned behaviour which means it can be prevented or unlearned. Every person has the right to feel safe, secure, loved, accepted and valued, and the responsibility to take action to ensure others feel the same.

Friendly Schools’ extensive research concurs with other current research that shows a whole-school approach is essential to achieving lasting, positive change to reduce bullying behaviour. The whole-school approach builds awareness at all levels of the school’s community, enabling the development of common goals and a shared understanding. This common understanding forms the basis for the school community to identify, develop and engage in appropriate and consistent strategies to deal with bullying.

A whole-school response:

  • Counters the view that bullying is an inevitable part of school life
  • Moves toward a prevention and promotion approach instead of treatment and crisis-management
  • Creates opportunities at all levels of the school community, helping to instil a supportive ethos and to break down any culture of secrecy surrounding bullying
  • Involves the whole-school community in expressing and reinforcing pro-social behaviour and the unacceptability of bullying behaviour.

Further details about the six components of the Friendly Schools initiative can be found in the videos on this page.

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The implementation of Friendly Schools is structured to provide a staged process to not overwhelm busy schools. Each Friendly Schools’ stage builds upon the others in a continuous and iterative manner. The Friendly Schools Implementation Road Map (displayed below) guides schools through the whole school implementation journey, from getting ready to reviewing and sustaining outcomes. It provides a visual representation of the five stages of implementation, divided into a series of 14 steps outlining sequential actions to guide school teams though the process. More information on each individual step is available in the research-based Evidence for Practice Friendly Schools’ resource, which provides a comprehensive guide to the implementation process.

The Friendly Schools Implementation Road Map

To get started on the Friendly Schools journey with guidance from one of our qualified training associates, contact

The Friendly Schools research journey has included 11 large empirical studies conducted since 1999, which focused ways to strengthen whole-school approaches to reduce all forms of bullying (including cyberbullying) from entering primary through to secondary schools. These large research projects (each on average three years long) have reduced bullying victimisation and perpetration behaviour among children and adolescents and raised awareness of the actions peers, families, schools and communities can take to prevent bullying behaviour. This robust research also found that it was not one single ingenious action that made a difference, but the sum of many small whole-school steps.

What is known from the research about making the Friendly Schools work in schools?

  • There must be a commitment on the part of administrators, teachers, support staff, parents and students. It is also extremely important for school leaders to be actively engaged and provide support and encouragement.
  • The Friendly Schools’ approach must engage the whole-school community.
  • The Friendly Schools initiatives are most effective when there is a coordinating group with member representatives from the whole-school community.
  • A coordinator is appointed and this person is allocated time and resources to effectively oversee the coordinating group.
  • Students must be involved purposefully and meaningfully in creating school culture and action to encourage pro-social behaviours.
  • Given most schools have existing policies and practices to address social and emotional development and prevent bullying, schools should begin by reviewing their current policies and practices and defining their next steps for school improvement.
  • The implementation of the Friendly Schools initiative often looks different in each school, as this initiative is designed to fit the unique context of each school.
  • Promoting and sustaining social norms in schools related to pro-social attitudes and a positive school climate takes time, consistency and commitment.
  • Schools need to celebrate and promote their successes as well as work towards improvement.

For more information about the Friendly Schools research please click here.


Six components of the Friendly School initiative


Building Capacity


Supportive School Culture


Proactive Policies and Practices


Key Understands and Competencies


Protective Physical Environment


School and Community Partnerships