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Content Section

Creating a safe and welcoming school (Educational Practices 16)

This booklet shows how schools can be made safe and welcoming places for children. Such schools are likely to foster children’s learning and their motivation to continue learning throughout their lives.

If a school is not safe, the consequences for children are many. Furthermore, if the students do not feel safe inside the school, the consequences to the school and to the staff are just as serious. When children feel unsafe, vandalism against school property increases, abusive behaviour toward school staff escalates, conflict among peer groups heightens and, in general, young people are unable to learn their lessons. The most common response among young people who feel unsafe is that they close themselves off from others. In a school setting this leads to students ‘shutting down’ and not responding to their lessons or any other influences that the adults at school will try to impart to them. How can learning effectively take place in such an environment? Conflict in the larger society that the school belongs to, world conflict, lack of school resources, and the school staff ’s response to distress in the students are all contributors to making students feel unsafe at the school.

Similarly, if a school does not convey a feeling of welcome to the students, young people will also respond in the same ways as if they were feeling unsafe. They will close themselves off from the school and attempt to stay in a protective bubble, isolated from the efforts of the teachers and staff to educate them. Creating a welcoming school goes hand-in-hand with safety. If a school is not inviting, students will feel anxious and will not fully participate in their education, no matter how vigorous a school is in trying to reach them. The consequences to the school will be the same as those when students feel unsafe. Vandalism, negative behaviour towards adults and conflict with other students often result when students do not feel welcomed.

It is with this in mind that we propose that creating a safe and welcoming school is a fundamental concept that all schools should take into account in an effort to successfully educate the children of the world.