A Year 8 boy recently described his experience of KiVa as “life-changing”.

He is just one of many Kiwi kids to benefit from the anti-bullying programme used in New Zealand schools, according to Deidre Vercauteren, senior project manager of Victoria University of Wellington’s Accent Learning, which holds the KiVa licence in New Zealand.

“A confident boy, he had been bullying other students without being aware of the impact of his actions,” she says. “For him, going through the KiVa process and having to face up to the fact that some of his behaviours amounted to bullying, was a significant leap in his social awareness.”

And now, KiVA is more accessible than ever, thanks to a new licencing deal negotiated with KiVa in Finland by Victoria University of Wellington which has halved the cost of providing the bullying prevention programme to New Zealand schools. KiVa has been introduced into over 30 schools throughout the country over the past three years.

Originating in Finland, KiVa is a whole-school strategy focused on three distinct groups: the bully, the victim and bystanders. Evaluation of the programme has shown a significant reduction in bullying in overseas countries.

A survey of 5,000 students at 14 primary and secondary schools conducted by Professor Vanessa Green from Victoria University’s Faculty of Education, showed that after just one year of the KiVa programme, bullying and victimisation rates have reduced by 5-10 percent.

“The licencing deal means more schools across New Zealand will be able to access KiVa,” says Vercuteren. “It’s great to be able to announce this during Bullying-Free New Zealand week.”

Vercauteren says a key role of KiVa is prevention, working proactively on attitudes and behaviours with the aim of reducing the number of bullying incidents.

“It enables a school to not only clearly define bullying but then measure progress towards reducing it,” she says. “It also focuses on giving students the strategies and confidence to speak out. We’ve had strong feedback from teachers indicating students are more open to reporting bullying, targeted at themselves or others, and bystanders of bullying are stepping up to defend a victim.”

With the new licencing deal in place, Accent Learning’s goal is to see a substantial number of schools nationwide signing up to KiVa, to create a stronger community applying KiVa principles. “We want to see a real difference, within the school communities and long-term by addressing issues that persist in society for both perpetrator and victim,” says Vercauteren.

KiVa founder Professor Christina Salmivalli will visit Victoria University in October to celebrate KiVa National Day.

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