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Safety assignments are not prioritized at school

Published: 23 January 2020

One of the primary school principals' most important tasks is to lead the work against abusive treatment, discrimination and harassment. Although the task plays a major role for students' health, development and learning, the assignment is often lower prioritized, according to new research from Luleå University of Technology.

– The work is perceived as complex and difficult to define with continuous change and many principals express that the greatest challenges are their own and the other staff's lack of knowledge, skills and experience of equal treatment work. Lack of resources is also an aggravating aspect, not least in terms of the time that the schools can devote to this work, says Greta Lindberg, University Lecturer at Luleå University of Technology, and notes that the assignment is often neglected in day-to-day operations.

Prioritizes the knowledge assignment

– The school's main assignment is usually described as a knowledge assignment and a social assignment. In many schools, the knowledge assignment is prioritized, which means that the important work of developing security and study peace in the school environment risks being lower prioritized.

In the dissertation Head teachers' management of schools with a demanding and ever-changing commission : On leadership and equality assurance, Greta Lindberg has studied the governance and management of schools' work against abusive treatment, discrimination and harassment, which is summarized in the dissertation with the concept of equal treatment. Although the study participants emphasize the importance of the assignment, Greta Lindberg's research shows that the practical execution of the equal treatment assignment varies and that it is becoming increasingly difficult to achieve equality in work from a national perspective.

– This is largely due to structural and cultural conditions, which in turn affect the processes and thus the degree to which an activity meets the requirements of the assignment. Under current conditions, many principals find that the equal treatment assignment becomes increasingly difficult to realize in the school's everyday life. One reason for this is the increased legalization of the assignment which risks deprofessionalizing the teachers as the educational space in the assignment is successively reduced in favor of a legal perspective. This can lead to teachers losing the educational initiative in terms of both effort and scope.

Reported violations are increasing

National surveys published in recent years show that the number of reported violations, discrimination cases and harassment is increasing and that this development is causing growing insecurity and ill-health among the students. Greta Lindberg believes that the keys to successful equal treatment work are skills development and systematic quality work with active promotion, prevention and remedial efforts as well as a sustainable perspective in the work.

– Schools whose leadership and staff have good knowledge and competence and actively work to prevent violations, discrimination and harassment increase their opportunities to promote safety and study for the students. Other key prerequisites are systematic quality work based on active efforts, which means that the schools investigate, analyze, measure, follow up and evaluate their efforts, says Greta Lindberg, emphasizing the importance of collaboration and participation.

– Collaboration between different levels and professions as well as student participation and a development work based on science and proven experience is decisive for successful equal treatment work.