Accentuate the positive

Problems between students at a Parramatta bus station are being overcome with the help of a school program.

When NSW Police, State Rail, Westfield, the Department of Transport and principals from local schools – across all educational sectors – met in 2010 in response to a number of serious incidents happening in the Parramatta interchange area, the Parramatta High School principal put forward a proposal to use the Positive Behaviour for Learning (PBL) model.

Having used this model since late 2005 the school knew it helped change behaviour having experienced a dramatic reduction in the number and length of suspensions.

According to relieving deputy principal Andrew Gokel, the key is to involve students and staff.

"We knew that we wouldn't see results overnight [with the PBL model], and it needed to be a slow and steady change," he said.

"Our school PBL team is made up of well-respected staff who have experience of welfare within our school."

More than 5,000 students merge on to the Parramatta interchange each afternoon.

Guided by the PBL model, the Parramatta Interchange action team surveyed and interviewed all stakeholders and established agreement on a common set of values/expectations.

"Students were instrumental in determining the expectations and designed the signage that is now posted at the Interchange and within the grounds of each school," Mr Gokel said.

These signs are:

Move with the flow, keep on the go.

Keep it cool, keep it clean.

Your dare is to be fair.

New practices that are encouraged include:

·         Staff and students taught agreed-upon expectations.

·         Students, with the help of the Western Sydney Region Student Representative Council, produced a DVD to demonstrate how to turn around negative behaviour.

·         Positive reinforcement vouchers and verbal praise given to students, and students go in the draw to win Westfield vouchers.

·         More buses running and more police, Railcorp and Westfield security guards patrolling the area.

"Feedback indicates a much improved and positive atmosphere for students and the public," Mr Gokel said.

"I cannot stress strongly enough the need to give students ownership and input into any behavioural plan. The ensuing results make everyone feel rewarded," Mr Gokel said.

Formal evaluation of the Interchange program will take place shortly.

Across Western Sydney Region, 148 schools (61 per cent) have trained to implement PBL.


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