Three interventions to reduce bullying in schools

Image: oneinchpunch /

A person cannot swim if they are struggling to float. When people regularly experience insecurity, they will not pursue higher goals – will not be industrious or lively or creative. This observation by psychologist Abraham Maslow explains one salient effect of bullying: the fact that bullied students often stop learning. But other parties suffer consequences, too – for example, bystanders feel guilt and develop an unhealthy view of power dynamics. Fortunately, the projects below have developed ways to support teachers in tackling this difficult issue.

Intervention 1: Group Norms

Bullying is usually a group phenomenon – therefore, to catch the problem early, the KiVa initiative decided to focus on group norms.

Through a special curriculum featuring lessons and online games, KiVa teaches children not to encourage bullying and to support their vulnerable peers. These curriculum activities are called universal actions and are meant to prevent bullying from occurring at all. Of course, the programme also provides indicated actions, for cases where bullying has already occurred. These include one-on-one and group discussions between the school’s KiVa team and the students concerned, as well as support from the bullied student’s peers.

There are many antibullying programmes, but KiVa stands out in that it has been rigorously tested. In Finland, it was evaluated in a randomised controlled trial involving a total of 234 schools – after which a remarkable 98% of bullied students reported that their situation had improved. KiVa has licensed partners in fourteen countries, and has been or is being tested in eight more.

KiVa was developed at the University of Turku in Finland, with funding from the Finnish Ministry of Education and Culture.

Intervention 2: Training

Bullying is a complex matter so teachers and students cannot be expected to have an automatic intuition for it. The ENABLE project sought a holistic approach to the problem, educating students, staff and parents/caretakers with a combination of social and emotional learning (SEL) and peer support.

Its strategy chiefly involves a set of 10 SEL modules, consisting of lesson plans, slide presentations and resource sheets. Other important components are a Peer Supporter programme, broken into a full-day training course and a blend of weekly sessions, campaign ideas and school activities; webinars for the implementation of ENABLE; and resources for parents and caretakers. You can browse through this wealth of materials on the dedicated page, or simply download the ENABLE Booklet, which provides a comprehensive overview of the resources for all interested parties.

The project partners also produced a report on bullying, covering all sorts of topics: definitions and types of bullying, interpretations by children, comparisons by age/country/gender, key intervention programmes, and more. This is also available as a summary.

ENABLE was an EU-funded project involving Belgium, Croatia, Denmark, Greece and the UK, and spanning three years (2014-2016). The ENABLE website is available in all of the partner countries’ languages.

Intervention 3: Community

Though bullying is often associated with school, this is not the only place where it occurs. It is a possibility in all contexts of childhood and adolescence, such as family, neighbourhood, and – of course – the Internet. That is why the Peer to Peer project tackled bullying from a community-based, territorial perspective. While schoolchildren carried out project activities to tackle bullying, a multitude of institutions collaborated with the same goal: town halls, schools, universities, associations of educational and research centres, regional governments, and institutions providing non-formal training. The conclusions of these international partnerships were then brought back to the local level, via workshops, conferences, meetings, pilot projects, and more.

The project’s most important results include a free online MOOC, and a baseline study on the state of art of bullying in Europe, summarised in this infographic (click to enlarge):

From Peer to Peer was an Erasmus+ Strategic Partnership among Belgium, Greece, Hungary, Italy, Portugal, Romania and Spain (project coordinator). It ran from 2016 to 2018 and was designated a good practice example.

Further reading:

To discover ongoing and past EU-funded projects in school education, please go to the Erasmus+ Project Results Platform.