A unique digital animation launched today aims to teach children about empathy and acceptance.

‘Oat the Goat’ went live today as part of this year’s Bullying-Free NZ Week (14-18 May 2018). It’s an interactive digital book for children aged 4-7, highlighting the importance of being kind to one another. It was launched by Associate Education Minister Tracey Martin.

Bullying is a learned behaviour, and tackling it is everyone’s job. ‘Oat the Goat’ encourages parents, whānau and teachers to use story time to talk with younger children about the choices they can make when they encounter bullying.

The digital story book is an initiative of the Ministry of Education, one of the 18 cross-sector organisations making up the Bullying Prevention Advisory Group (BPAG), which is committed to reducing bullying in New Zealand schools. The book is also available in te reo Māori.

Bullying-Free NZ Week is an annual nationwide BPAG event and an opportunity for schools and their communities to raise awareness about bullying and its serious consequences. The week ends with  Pink Shirt Day, 18 May, when New Zealanders speak up, stand together to stop bullying, and celebrate diversity in schools, workplaces and communities.

During the week schools can run classroom activities to get students talking about bullying and review their anti-bullying policies. This year’s theme is ‘Let’s Talk About It’, acknowledging that children and young people can find it difficult to ‘open up’ to adults about bullying. The week provides an opportunity for children, parents, schools and the whole community to talk about bullying. School leaders are also encouraged to give students the opportunity to anonymously share how they feel about school through the free Wellbeing@School student survey.

Secretary for Education and Chair of BPAG, Iona Holsted said: “All students are entitled to feel safe and secure at school. Parents and whānau are children’s first teachers. Together with early childhood educators and schools, we can all help children to develop positive relationships and social skills. Reading ‘Oat the Goat’ is a great way for parents and teachers to talk about bullying with younger children who are still learning how to get on with each other.”

Judge Andrew Becroft, Children’s Commissioner and BPAG member said: “Bullying goes to the heart of children’s wellbeing and can affect the entire family as well. We want our children to feel happy and safe at home and school. Children have told us they want to be carefully listened to when they talk about bullying and responded to appropriately. It is not an easy thing for children to talk about, but all of us must be prepared to listen to their experiences, take them seriously and be ready to help in whatever way we can. Together, we can build bullying-free schools and communities.”

BPAG member Lorraine Kerr (MNZM), New Zealand School Trustees Association President, says that Bullying-Free NZ Week is a chance to bring the whole school together to talk about the issue. “Nobody wants to think that bullying is going on in their school, or happening to their kids. The reality is that it does happen. We only have to read the comments that students have made in the Education Matters to Me reports to understand that. What makes the difference is how well we listen and respond when it does. When we are prepared to listen, to have the courageous conversations about what is going wrong and how to deal with its root causes, and most importantly, to take action to prevent it happening again, then we are on the right track.”

See ‘Oat the Goat’ here.

(Banner: Screenshot from Oat the Goat via http://www.oatthegoat.co.nz/)

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