The Prime Minister's request to schools to review their anti bullying policies contrasts with his Government's 2009 decision when the Ministry of Education cut all its funding to the Cool Schools Mediation Programme.
This programme ,which teaches conflict resolution skills and trains peer mediators in schools, has a proven track record.
This cut in funding for this Peace Foundation programme has severely curtailed the number of schools which receive the programme free. Now only 84 schools nationally receive free training and support from Ministry of Health funding each year.
This has left the remainder of schools to cover the cost themselves – and many who want to implement the programme can't do this. One school which has imbedded the programme in the school is Paraparaumu School. They have received full free training in the past, and follow up visits from Lynn Scott the local coordinator. Their records show that implementation of the programme has decreased "incidents" in classrooms and in the playground.
With over 50% of funding withdrawn, many schools throughout the country have lost the opportunity to implement the programme. They say they cannot afford the cost of training and resources. This is despite the Peace Foundation offering training at below cost, at around just $1500 for a whole school.
The Cool Schools Programme promotes positive, safe, proactive steps for solving problems. Schools that implement the programme report that a high number of student disputes are settled permanently.
Lynn Scott, who delivers the Cool Schools programme to Wellington schools, says: "I can't advertise this programme to schools now, because I cannot meet the demand for training. I get more schools wanting the programme than I can accommodate – I am now only able to provide free training to half the schools that want it".
The Cool Schools Mediation Programme is a prevention and intervention programme which empowers students to be role models in peaceful conflict resolution.
Student mediators learn skills so that they can help take responsibility for keeping their school environment safe. This includes talking to students who are being bullied or who are doing the bullying.
"The Prime Minister is washing his hands in public. He can't have it both ways. It is clear that he does not know what his Minister of Education and the Ministry of Education have done – cut the funding for a proven programme that reduces bullying and conflict in schools," says Ms Scott.