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    Every school is different. Respectful relationships education acknowledges this and provides clear implementation steps and tools that are flexible and adaptive so that you can choose actions that are appropriate for your school. The step-by-step process to prioritise actions will support you to make real and lasting change in your school. 

    How the five-step cycle will assist your school

    build your understanding of gender-based violence and violence prevention 

    evaluate where your school is at – every school is at a different state in promoting gender equality and respectful relationships 

    prioritise and set goals 

    implement strategies 

    monitor activities and outcomes. 

    The steps are designed to be a continuous quality improvement cycle. We recommend that your school repeat this process annually, embedding it in school processes and culture. 

    5 circles evenly spread around a larger circle. From top circle one says '1. school readiness', circle 2 says '2. exploring current practice', circle 3 says 'planning and implementing', circle 4 says 'evaluating and reviewing' and circle 5 says 'reviewing and repeating'.

    Step 1: School readiness

    This step is designed to ensure that you have the leadership commitment and resourcing you need and the steps you take are safe for your staff and students. 

    Building school readiness could take up to a year, depending on the size of your school and whether your school is already doing work to promote equality and respect. This may seem like a long time but ensuring you have the genuine understanding and commitment of school leaders will make your work more effective. 

    In this step, you will: 

    • Build your and your school’s understanding of the prevalence, impacts and key drivers of gender-based violence. 
    • Establish a respectful relationships education implementation team which will lead your whole-of-school approach to promoting gender equality and respectful relationships. 
    • Ensure that this team is supported in its work and adequately resourced. 
    • Publicly communicate your commitment to respectful relationships education. 

    There are four key steps to school readiness that should be completed prior to implementing respectful relationships education. 

    Establish a team 

    This team will lead the work internally and should have representatives from all areas within the school community, including: 

    • leadership team 
    • teaching staff 
    • non-teaching staff 
    • wellbeing team 
    • student body. 

    Your school may also wish to consider including families or the broader school community, and/or critical friends/s from partner community organisations or services. Making sure that key staff understand gender-based violence and how schools can prevent it 

    It’s important to make sure all the teaching and non-teaching staff understand the dynamics of gender-based violence and how to prevent it. One way to do this is to provide prevention training to build a strong shared understanding of what issues to address and key steps to take. You may also want to provide resources to staff so everyone is equipped to respond to questions, concerns and feedback. 

    A busy secondary school corridor and staircase shown at class change-over time with lots of students moving around.

    Understand the gender-based drivers of violence against women and what works to prevent it.

    Ensuring your school can respond to staff who experience violence 

    It’s important that you consider what policies and practices need to be in place to support staff and students experiencing violence, such as paid family violence leave and appropriate referral processes to victims’ services. Every workplace should provide basic training to ensure staff can respond to colleagues who are experiencing gendered violence and sexual harassment. 

    Secure genuine commitment from leaders 

    It’s worth investing time and energy to help your implementation team understand that your school has the power and responsibility to promote gender equality and that they have a role to play, as leaders and role models. 

    Step 2: Engaging your school community

    Engaging staff, families and communities will inform you about the views and needs of your community and help everyone see their role in promoting equality and respect. 

    In this step, you will: 

    • Give all staff an opportunity to share their perspectives and experiences of gender equality in the school as their workplace. School leaders will communicate to staff how they will respond to this feedback. 
    • Communicate with families and the wider school community about the school’s approach to respectful relationships education. 
    • Consult with the whole school community about their expectations and experiences of gender equality at the school. 
    • Develop an understanding among staff about how they can contribute to building a school culture that promotes gender equality. 

    Engaging staff 

    A genuine whole-of-school approach requires that all staff understand the importance of promoting gender equality and respectful relationships. 

    All staff need to be supported to build a culture where gender stereotypes are challenged and gender equality is actively promoted and modelled, in and out of the classroom. Staff also need to be equipped to respond to questions and challenges from students and parents. 

    The best approach to increasing staff understanding will depend on your school structure and culture, but consider some of the following methods: 

    • Provide on-site professional learning sessions, internally or externally facilitated. 
    • Include communications in staff bulletins and share information and resources on the staff intranet. 
    • Display informative posters in staff areas. 
    • Use video clips or recent news items to prompt discussion among staff about gender equality and/or gender-based violence. 

    Engaging parents and caregivers 

    Parents, caregivers and families have important roles to play in supporting your school’s work to promote gender equality and respectful relationships. Creating opportunities for discussion and feedback from parents, caregivers and families is essential for ensuring your plan for action is tailored and sustainable. Surveys are an effective way to get valuable insight into families’ awareness, understanding and support of prevention of gender-based violence work. 

    Engaging students 

    Meaningful and active engagement with students within schools is vital, as students feel heard, share their own ideas for change, and are able to shape their own experiences within the school environment. 

    There may be opportunities to involve students in planning, informing and consulting with the wider student body through any leadership or council processes that exist. Students are often strong advocates for this work and can have significant influence and impact on gender equality in both their school and social settings. 

    When schools value the voices, thoughts and opinions of students, actively promote their engagement and see it as crucial to whole school change, that change will be more effective. 

    Step 3: Exploring current practice

    In this step, you will gather data on your school’s current state and undertake a self-assessment to identify strengths and places for improvement. 

    Objectives of this step: 

    • Undertake the school self-assessment with staff. 
    • Gather data using the school self-assessment tool with students. 

    An effective whole-of-school approach relies on building your action plan and messages with a deep understanding of the different perceptions, experiences, histories and levels of support of students, staff and families. As such, every school begins this work from a different starting point. 

    Doing a gender equality assessment 

    The school self-assessment tool for staff allows you to capture valuable insights into how staff perceive your school as a school, community hub and workplace. It is recommended that all staff have the opportunity to participate in this assessment so that you are capturing a true representation of staff thoughts and opinions. If this is not possible, the respectful relationships education implementation team should complete the assessment and report the findings to all staff. You will revisit this tool in the next step to complete an action plan based on your findings. 

    The school self-assessment tool for students is an example of how your school can access students’ unique thoughts and opinions on the school culture and environment. This tool was created for Grade 5 and 6 cohorts and helped to create targeted actions and strategies in the implementation step of this process. Use the School self-assessment tools for staff and students to assist with planning and adapting this tool for your student cohort. 

    Both self-assessment tools reflect the whole-of-school approach. It allows you to identify what the school is doing well in the six different components of the whole-of-school approach as well as identify priorities for future improvement. If prevention work does not adequately consider gendered experiences and impacts or is not inclusive and accessible, then your work is unlikely to achieve its objectives. 

    The tools can be used as both as baseline assessment of your school’s current activity and capacity for change and as tools to guide planning actions. Gathering this data is important because this gives you a point to measure improvement from. 

    Step 4: Planning and implementing

    Now it’s time to implement your priority actions. Based on your school assessment from step 3, you will form a plan of action, that includes setting milestones, dedicating resources and agreeing on achievable timelines. 

    In this step, you will: 

    • Identify priority actions, map them across the next year and assign suitable resources and responsibility to ensure accountability. 
    • Look at internal school policies and utilise templates and guidance to ensure that you are addressing the gendered drivers of violence. 
    • Communicate your priority actions and implementation plan to the wider school community. 

    Developing an implementation plan 

    After completing your school’s self-assessments, it’s time to develop an implementation plan, based on the actions you have identified. The action plan maps your priorities over the six elements of the whole-of-school approach. You’ll find that many actions in your plan will support each other. It is also important to consider short and longer-term actions — don’t commit to everything in the first term! 

    There are a broad range of actions your school can take including developing or reviewing key policies for staff and students, mainstreaming the promotion of gender equality across different learning areas and communicating regularly with the school community. 

    Before agreeing on your school’s priority actions, it is important to ask: 

    • Do these actions respond to the feedback and evidence gathered from members of the school community? 
    • Do these actions equally address the needs of staff and students? 
    • Are these actions likely to help us create sustainable cultural change in our school? 
    • Do these actions align with the goals and strategies in our school’s strategic plan or other overarching planning documents? 
    • Are these actions feasible right now? 
    • Do we have the knowledge, resources and support systems to undertake these actions? 

    Step 5: Evaluating and reviewing

    Evaluation is essential to understanding the impact of respectful relationships education at your school and should be considered throughout planning, implementation and reviewing. 

    In this step, you will: 

    • Build your and your school’s understanding of the essential elements of evaluation and the ethics of conducting evaluations. 
    • Ensure that the respectful relationships education implementation team recognise the importance of integrating evaluation and monitoring throughout the annual cycle of implementation. 
    • Use data from evaluation tools used in earlier steps to assess progress in your school. 

    Evaluation data can provide valuable information on how your approach is benefiting different members of your school community, inform decisions on how to improve your approach and identify your successes. Any school-based primary prevention strategy should be continually reviewed and updated to ensure it reflects the needs and practices of young people, staff and the wider school community. 

    Elements for evaluation 

    There are a number of essential elements to consider in evaluating your approach to respectful relationships education. Within your school there are already a range of tools that can support you to evaluate your action. This includes looking at changing data trends in student attendance, feedback through staff, student and parent opinion surveys, interviews and focus groups. 

    How can you collect data? 

    A combination of qualitative and quantitative methods generally works well for evaluating respectful relationships education. Methods can include staff and student surveys, audits, interviews, focus groups, and collecting school data such as staffing and leadership demographics. It is important to consider inclusivity and accessibility in data collection tools and processes, to manage barriers to participation. 

    Evaluation indicators for respectful relationships education in schools can include: 

    • Availability and application of policies relating to harassment, violence and bullying. 
    • Gender and other demographic makeup of leadership teams. 
    • Staff confidence in teaching respectful relationships. 
    • Staff and student attitudes towards gender and gender equality, such as opinions about what careers women and men can pursue, or what activities girls and boys can engage in. 
    • Participation of male family members in school activities. 

    Be consistent so you can compare data 

    Using the same data collection tool at the beginning and end of each annual cycle allows you to compare results over time. By using the same question and/or data gathering method, you can track your progress which is important for monitoring both student outcomes and shifts in staff perceptions and experiences in their workplace. 

    Set achievement milestones and measures 

    As part of your action planning process, it is important that Achievement Milestones (changes in practices or behaviours you are trying to achieve) and Measures (data or information collect to measure this change) are determined so that you can the evaluate and review whether there have been positive changes as a result of your engagement in respectful relationships education. 

    Remember cultural change takes time and cannot always be measured in spaces of time. This is why it is important to monitor and observe all changes across the school using both qualitative and quantitative methods. 

    For example, achievement milestones: 

    • Increase in staff confidence to deliver teaching and learning materials. 
    • Measure: Survey of staff pre and post professional development (quantitative method). 
    • Use findings and share feedback with your school community 

    Evaluation is at its best when it’s a participatory process and sharing findings can be a useful tool for engaging everyone, making them feel heard and included in the process. This is particularly important for those students, staff, families and other community members asked to share in surveys. Sharing findings with them builds awareness of the whole-of-school approach and assures participants that their contribution is taken seriously and reinforces that school leaders are committed to action. 

    Using the same data collection tools at the beginning and end of each annual cycle allows you to compare results over time.  

    Evaluation tools 

    The right evaluation data informs planning and your implementation, giving you a sense of where your school is starting from, and where you might be heading. 

    The following tools have been developed to provide you with practice tools to inform the planning and ongoing improvement of relationship relationships education in your school. 

    • School baseline assessment 
    • Student baseline assessment 
    • Student knowledge, skills and attitudes survey Grade 1 and 2 
    • Student knowledge, skills and attitudes survey Year 8 and 9 

    If adapting or using these tools from step 3, it’s crucial you revisit this data and use the same methodology in later evaluations so that  you can include behaviour change measures.

    A group of co-ed secondary school students walking along a corridor.

    Find tools and resources related to respectful relationships education including evidence guides, toolkits and templates.

    Cover of resource showing five primary aged children in school uniform sitting on a bench in a line talking and laughing together.
    • 2 resources in this collection

    This toolkit supports schools to plan and implement a whole-of-school approach to preventing gender-based violence.