‘The school is now a safe home away from home’4 September 2023 • 11:47
There are quite a few prejudices about Duindorp. Ryanne van Gool (director De Meerpaal), Erna de Moedt (director De Tweemaster) and Lianne Krens (deputy De Tweemaster) can relate. “Outsiders who come to our school think, so to speak, that the students are already beating each other up in the hallway,” Lianne says. ‘But then when they see how things really are, they say: wow, how quiet it is here! People actually say how good they think the educational climate is with us.
That climate is due in large part to a way of working called Positive Behaviour Support (PBS). At its core, you can teach good behavior. About five years ago, De Tweemaster and De Meerpaal started it. Ryanne: “At that time we were dealing quite a lot with extreme behavior from children. Because our schools are in the same building, there were already a lot of mutual contacts. If you then start with such a new way of working, it is logical that you pull together, otherwise things go wrong immediately in the schoolyard.’
PBS is not something you can get started with without commitment. The school operates with a set of values and precepts that must be strictly followed. Good behavior is rewarded, such as in the form of extra outdoor play or a walk on the beach. ‘You can’t think: we won’t do it for a week,’ says Ryanne. ‘We approach behavior as a subject, just like math and language. Teachers report that sometimes they spend as much as 70 percent of their time with PBS and the rest of their time with the other subjects. It’s tough and feisty, it requires certain qualities.’
Partners in the neighborhood
The results are there, as evidenced by the number of reduced incidents and the improvement in the educational climate. Parents are also positive, although there are some parents who find the rules too constricting. “The school is really a safe haven now,” says Lianne. ‘You can really make a difference for the kids.’
Despite the success of the PBS approach, something was still missing. The two schools felt a strong need for people who could act as a connecting link between the schools themselves and the other organizations in the district. With financial support from Project Buitenkans, that gap has been filled. Meanwhile, two school coaches are on the job. Ryanne: ‘It’s really nice that we have people walking around who can pick things up immediately, for example when there are quarrels in the schoolyard or when children show difficult behavior. It also has a preventive effect, because we can often intervene before the whole procedure of MDOs and arrangements has to be set up. That is nice, also for parents, because everything happens at school. Parents are a lot more suspicious when GGD, Safe Home or another outside organization is involved.’
The school coaches also bring two dogs that are deployed as standard. Erna: ‘That works extremely well, you see that the dogs have an immediate effect on the children. The school coach mirrors the students’ behavior to the dog, so the penny drops very quickly.’