The Grandes rencontres will train Quebec teachers, principals and school stakeholders by holding a 2-day round of meetings over 3 years throughout the 17 regions of Quebec.
For school-based violence prevention efforts to be effective, there needs to be a deep commitment to the cause and ongoing collaboration among key stakeholders. These stakeholders, following their respective roles and responsibilities, must ensure that concrete steps are taken to ensure that schools are safe, caring, and productive communities.
Schools are not only academic institutions; they are also milieus for socialization. They teach students to live in society, helping them acquire the social skills through which – both at school and into their adult lives – they will generate harmonious interpersonal relationships in a climate of peace and solidarity. Schools provide an environment where the values of respect, inclusiveness, sharing, and openness to others are taught and respected.
However, schools cannot act alone. They must count on the cooperation of their partners, especially parents, who have the primary responsibility for their children’s education, as well as on all other stakeholders in the educational system and the greater community.
The Grandes rencontres project, created by the Fondation Jasmin Roy in conjunction with the Ministère de l’Éducation, de l’Enseignement supérieur et de la Recherche, and the Peace Grantmakers Network, brings together a variety of stakeholders – from educational partners to research organizations like PREVNet – in an effort to create a positive and caring school climate. These organizations and their partners are devoted to the struggle against violence and bullying, and together provide school system stakeholders with training designed to meet the following objectives:
• to inform, reassure, and support school staff, particularly those who have been mandated by their schools to lead the fight against bullying and violence
• to generate learning and foster discussion among the participants, using approaches based on current research findings on the most effective means of creating positive and caring school communities
Violence and bullying are, among other things, human relationship problems, and the solutions to them must focus on interpersonal factors, primarily through educational approaches aimed at developing social skills. Commitment to the development of a positive school climate involves choosing measures that will enable all young people to live in greater harmony, teaching the perpetrators of acts of bullying and violence to meet their needs in more constructive ways, helping the victims of bullying and violence to be more assertive, and supporting witnesses in developing greater compassion toward others. This is how a welcoming community is created. All of these skills can be acquired through social and emotional learning.
A major trend in the world of education has emerged over the last twenty years, namely, an increasing recognition of the role of basic social and emotional skills in the areas of stress management, emotional regulation, healthy interpersonal relationships, and prosocial behaviour.
Studies are repeatedly demonstrating that social and emotional skills play a key role in the development of good students and citizens capable of making their way in the work world. These studies also show that many high-risk behaviours (e.g. use of drugs, violence, bullying and dropping out of school) can be eliminated, or their likelihood reduced, when the development of students’ social and emotional skills is approached as a long-term, overall goal (Durlak et al., 2011*). Social and emotional learning, as developed in the field of education in recent years, targets the acquisition of abilities and skills that are of great importance in a school context.
The Grandes rencontres project is a response to concerns and needs expressed at the anti-bullying forum held by Premier Philippe Couillard on October 2, 2014. Participants were asked to support and guide the school community, and to share best practices. By promoting healthy relationships, respect for others, social responsibility, and responsible citizenship to our children and youth, we can reduce violence and bullying in Québec.