Family violence, cyberbullying and mental health are the biggest challenges to building social cohesion at school, new research by Monash University shows.
But, in good news, school leaders report students are more likely to be accepting of those perceived to be different from them, to help each other out, and get on well with one another.
Monash University’s Faculty of Education released findings of this ongoing research in the ‘Social Cohesion in Victorian Schools Report’ today.
In one of the first Australian studies on social cohesion in schools, funded by the Ross Trust and Reichstein Foundation, nearly half of principals and assistant principals surveyed said cyberbullying was the biggest issue confronting students. Sixty per cent of school leaders ranked cyberbullying in their top three issues.
Twenty-two per cent of school leaders identified racism in their top three social issues confronting students (3 per cent rated it first), while 20 per cent cited discrimination or harassment based on poverty in their top three, with 7 per cent saying it was the most important.
Discrimination or harassment based on mental health issues was also rated in the top three by 20 per cent of school leaders.
As part of the survey, the 91 school leaders also flagged family violence, sexism and discrimination based on intellectual disability, and gender identity as significant social issues facing students.
More than half of the principals and assistant principals surveyed had been in the role for more than 10 years.
Professor Jane Wilkinson from Monash University’s Faculty of Education led a team of researchers from Monash and Deakin University on this project.
The aim of the study was to identify what school leaders perceive are the key social issues affecting Victorian public schools, and what helps or hinders them to build more socially connected school communities – especially as students return to the classroom after the COVID-19 pandemic.