Cowie, H. & Jennifer, D. (Co-ordinating team, UK), Chankova, D. & Poshtova, T. (Bulgaria), Deklerck, J. & Deboutte, G. (Belgium), Ertesvåg, S. K. & Samuelsen, A. S. (Norway), O'Moore, M. & Minton, S. J. (Ireland) and Ortega, R. & Sanchez, V. (Spain) © (2006)
The VISTA project adopts the WSA to the promotion of non-violence and prevention of violence which can be applied in any educational setting. In taking up the WSA, VISTA believes that the phenomenon of school violence is best addressed as a collective challenge, and not as a problem rooted in the individual. From this perspective, a WSA involves as many actors as possible including children and young people, teachers, school management, non-teaching staff members, parents, governors, the local community, external organisations and wider society as a whole.
A successful WSA approach to the promotion of non-violence not only addresses violent behaviour it also improves the climate and ethos of the school, improves relationships among staff, children and young people and parents, it also supports the emotional health and well-being and learning potential of children and young people, and all adult members of the school community.
One of the core principles of a WSA is to encompass the rights of democracy, participation and citizenship in harmony with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (1989) and the European Charter for Democratic Schools without Violence (2004).
All members of the school community have the right to a safe and peaceful school. Everyone has the responsibility to contribute to creating a positive and inspiring environment for learning and personal development.
Everyone has the right to equal treatment and respect regardless of any personal difference. Everyone enjoys freedom of speech without risking discrimination or repression.
The school community ensures that everybody is aware of their rights and responsibilities.
Every democratic school has a democratically elected decision-making body composed of representatives of pupils, teachers, parents, and other members of the school community where appropriate. All members of this body have the right to vote.
In a democratic school, conflicts are resolved in a non-violent and constructive way in partnership with all members of the school community. Every school has staff and pupils trained to prevent and solve conflicts through counselling and mediation.
Every case of violence is investigated and dealt with promptly, and followed through irrespective of whether pupils or any other members of the school community are involved.
School is a part of the local community. Co-operation and exchange of information with local partners are essential for preventing and solving problems.
The focus of a WSA is on both the school as a formal organisation (i.e., the institutional aspects of the school) and the school as a community (i.e., the informal relationships and networks). VISTA recommends that schools work through the WSA to help children, parents and teachers prevent violence in school and create an environment that promotes non-violent attitudes.