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Anti-bullying scheme encourages classmates to speak out

The KiVa approach involves children doing role-play to understand how they can fight bullying. Photo: ITV News

An innovative approach to tackling bullying, which focuses on the role of bystanders, is now being rolled out across primary schools in Powys.

The KiVa programme was developed in Finland, and brought to Wales by researchers at Bangor University.

Watch our report from Priory Church in Wales Primary School in Brecon:

Tackling bullying

Tackling bullying remains a very significant challenge in our schools.

It is very difficult to pinpoint the amount of bullying that goes on - and different research suggests that between 20 per cent and 50 per cent of pupils experience it at some point during their school lives.

A report in June 2014 from the Welsh education watchdog Estyn warned simply "too many pupils suffer from bullying."

It found variations in how schools deal with bullying, problems dealing with new challenges like cyberbullying, and recommended greater support for groups of young people particularly 'at risk.'

The KiVa programme

The KiVa anti-bullying programme was developed at the University of Turku in Finland.

If focuses on the role of bystanders - other pupils - and how their actions can help to tackle bullying, by supporting a victim, telling a teacher, or simply not endorsing the behaviour of a perpetrator.

The programme is taught using role-play exercises, group discussions and pupils' written assignments imagining they are victims. It is intended to take a whole-school approach, with - for example - posters in all classrooms, and playground staff wearing KiVa vests, so the approach continues outside specific anti-bullying lessons.

Staff at Priory Church in Wales Primary School wear KiVa jackets in the playground.

It was brought to the UK by researchers at Bangor University, who piloted it in several dozen Welsh schools from 2012, and found a drop in reported incidents of bullying.

The KiVa approach is now being rolled out in primary schools across Powys, with 40 ready to implement it by September 2015.

It is costing the county is around £10,000 per year. Schools get free training and resources.

The roll-out is being overseen by a group of organisations, including Powys Teaching Health Board.

Consultant Child Psychologist Dr Sue Evans says there is evidence KiVa works - and the health board is involved in developing approaches to fight bullying, because it can have hugely detrimental impacts on children's learning, and cause mental health issues when they get older.

Dr Sue Evans is leading the training for schools in Powys.

Priory Church in Wales Primary School, in Brecon has been using the KiVa approach since September 2014 - and seen significant benefits.

I've certainly noticed less children coming to me wanting to talk about incidents that are happening.

I'm certainly hearing the word bullying less, because their understanding of it is much clearer.

A recent pupil questionnaire has shown that 96% of the children feel happy and safe in school.

So, I think it's a programme for everyone to use - and I think most schools would see an impact with it as well.

– Sam Greasley - Headteacher, Priory Church in Wales Primary School

The Welsh Government says it has provided funding and support for anti-bullying schemes, including KiVa - but currently has no plans to roll out the programme on a national basis.

The KiVa approach involves pupils' doing role-play to understand how they can reduce bullying.