When it comes to feeling safe at school, a new global survey shows Australian primary school kids equate feeling safe with not being bullied. Twenty-nine per cent of those surveyed in ChildFund's seventh 'Small Voices, Big Dreams' survey said their school is only 'sometimes safe'.
The annual survey provides a snapshot of kids' views on education and safety at school, in both developed and developing countries. More than 6,000 kids aged 10-12 in 41 countries took part – including Afghanistan, Cambodia and Zambia.
Aussie kids most commonly characterised safety as having preventative security measures in place to tackle bullying (46 per cent) -- ranging from 'out of bound' areas, to protection from strangers, to supervision by teachers. Forty-three per cent described 'feeling safe' as not being the target of physical or emotional abuse or violence, with many children referring to 'no bullying'.
"Bullying can have serious consequences. While most schools take bullying very seriously, the survey tells us that more progress is needed. Many teachers are not sure how to deal with bullying," Nigel Spence, CEO of ChildFund Australia, said.
"It is a concern that one in three kids in Australia don't always feel safe at school but it could be related to occasional anxiety. Also, in the survey, the kids were including a range of concerns, such as having no bullying in the playground or classroom, as well as treating kids fairly and with respect. They also referred to being protected from strangers who might pose a threat, and having secure gates and fences at school."
Spence told The Huffington Post Australia the survey highlights the often striking similarities and differences between children in different parts of the world.
"There are very different kinds of concerns around the world. So, while Australian children highlight bullying, kids in developing countries were more concerned about classrooms not being hygienic or structurally safe. In other places, kids are concerned about conflict and war," Spence said.
"For American children, there are concerns about weapons in school and drug gangs and many fear for their lives. So, when you compare with Australia, where the number one concern is bullying, our children -- while they still have concerns -- they are also pretty lucky to be in Australia."
Primary school children in India (58 per cent), Ethiopia (55 per cent) and Bangladesh (54 per cent) said being safe at school means school buildings and facilities which are clean, safe and in good repair.
"What the survey is telling us is that while schools in Australia have made a lot of progress on anti-bullying programs, these findings tell us they're necessary. But it's also telling us there's a long way to go before our kids feel safe to a level we'd want them to be."
Small Voices Big Dreams: key findings
- Children almost universally said education is important to them (98 per cent).
- One in three children globally (31 per cent) said their school is not always a safe place.
- Almost two-thirds of children in developed countries (64 per cent) said education is important 'because it will allow me to get a good job when I grow up' – compared to 40 per cent of children in developing countries.
- In developing countries, 20 per cent of children said school was important 'because having an education will help me care for my parents', compared to 6 per cent of children in developed countries.
- Almost half of children in developed countries (48 per cent) said what they love most about school is 'being with friends', while the top response from children in developing countries (51 per cent) was 'learning new things'.
- As Prime Minister, almost half of children in Australia (49 per cent) would improve education by modernising the curriculum, while more than half of children in developing countries (56 per cent) would prioritise building and renovating schools.
- Children in Australia were equally as concerned as their peers in developing countries about providing greater financial support for schools and students (both 25 per cent).
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