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Positive school environment

Because of the sensitive nature of many aspects of Health and Physical Education in the New Zealand Curriculum (1999), it is vital that schools and teachers establish a trusting, supportive, and inclusive learning environment for their students. Inclusive practice occurs when teachers value and draw on the diversity within their class and the school community. Inclusive practice is based on encouraging participation, respecting all ideas and opinions, and reflecting on what emerges from discussion and interaction.

Schools and teachers need to:

  • work with their students to create supportive learning environments, so that all students have a sense of belonging and can contribute to their class and their school;
  • recognise that the ideas and understandings that students bring to and develop, through their learning are influenced by their attitudes, values, prior experiences, and existing knowledge and skills;
  • acknowledge and value the cultures of all students in their classes, protect the mana of students and their families, and recognise the unique position of Māori in New Zealand society;
  • be equally supportive towards girls and boys, and towards students with differing abilities and disabilities;
  • use a range of strategies that engage students in learning (for example, strategies that involve the students in using visual images) and plan to reduce barriers to learning;
  • show that they value students for who they actually are, not for who they 'should be'.

The Curriculum in Action series provides ideas for establishing an inclusive classroom environment. Examples of learning activities are as follows:

  • activities encouraging students to develop guidelines for working together can be found in Creating a Positive Classroom Community, page 13;
  • ideas for creating a safe and supportive class environment can be found in Change, Loss, and Grief, pages 18–19;
  • suggestions for ways of addressing injustice in the context of the school's environment can be found in Attitudes and Values: Olympic Ideals in Physical Education, pages 20–21.

Inclusive communication is an ongoing process. See page 12 of Inclusive Sexuality Education/Ngā Āhuatanga o te Tāne me te Wahine for more information on the advantages of teaching inclusively.

Safe environment review

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When the school provides a caring and supportive environment, students feel valued and are able to contribute to school and community life.

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Consider the characteristics in the following list when evaluating your school's learning environment.

Goals for providing a safe physical and emotional environment for students:

  • Every culture represented within the school is recognised and contributes to school activities.
  • Parents/caregivers are kept informed about school programmes and encouraged to support them.
  • Adults from the local community come to the school often.
  • Visitors are welcomed to the school and feel comfortable.
  • There is good communication throughout the school between staff (for example, between syndicates of departments, and between class teachers and senior management).
  • Every teacher in the school promotes and models healthy practices.
  • The school's strategic plan or mission statement is reflected in the daily life of the school.
  • School policies are implemented.
  • There is a sense of partnership and good communication between teachers and students.
  • There is a sense of partnership and good communication between teachers and parents/caregivers.
  • Staff and parents/caregivers support each other and share responsibility for aspects of programme planning, and for management of behavior.
  • Every student is expected to achieve success.
  • Students see the school as a place of learning.
  • Students and staff enjoy being at school.
  • Staff seek students' input when establishing students' learning needs, and respond sensitively to those needs.
  • Students know the intended outcomes of learning experiences and are involved in developing the criteria for assessing how far the outcomes have been achieved.
  • Teachers give their students feedback to motivate them and acknowledge their successes, and also use feedback from students and parents to help plan for further learning.
  • Students' work is displayed around the school.
  • Teaching and learning approaches develop students' sense of personal and social responsibility.
  • The social activities in the school enhance the well-being of all school members.

Print version of Safe Environment review:

PDF icon. Environmental Safety Review (PDF, 15 KB)


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