Two young guys on a wharf.

Developing a More Positive School Culture to Address Bullying and Improve School Relationships

Case studies from two primary schools and one intermediate school


This report was commissioned by the Ministry of Social Development to help implement Action Area Four of New Zealand’s Agenda for Children, which aims to address violence in children’s lives with a particular focus on bullying.

The aim of this study was to collect information about the actions that three primary schools have taken to develop a more positive school culture and to reduce bullying in their schools.

The report was prepared for the Ministry of Social Development by Michael Gaffney, Nancy Higgins, Jaleh McCormack, and Nicola Taylor of the Children’s Issues Centre.

The schools that took part in the research were:

  • Papatoetoe Intermediate School, Manukau City
  • Wilford Primary School, Hutt City
  • Caversham Primary School, Dunedin City

Principles of change

The research identified principles of change that improve school culture and help to reduce bullying.

  • Leadership is critical to initiating the process but staff support, followed by student support, is needed to achieve school-wide development.
  • The development of a more positive school culture requires people to look at the relationships that make up the school.
  • The programmes implemented, and it is unlikely to be just one, need to focus on supporting the wellbeing of students, their families and whanau.
  • The change process requires lots of time and energy and is not self sustaining.

A researcher undertook interviews with the principal, teachers, school support staff, external professionals associated with the school, and a parent representative on the Board of Trustees and also facilitated focus groups with students. Each researcher then developed a profile for their school.

Two young guys on a wharf.


The summary of the report contains a two page abstract of the aims of the research, the participants and the findings. It also contains a four page table that details the school data according to the research questions.

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