A preliminary evaluation of KiVa after one-year of implementation in New Zealand

By: Vanessa A. Green, Daniel Wegerhoff, Lisa Woods & Susan Harcourt

Victoria University of Wellington, New Zealand


“In line with international data, bullying appears to be relatively common in New Zealand schools. In a recent national survey of over 1,200 teachers and principals, for example, Green, Harcourt, Mattioni, and Prior (2013) found that 94% of the respondents said that bullying was a problem in their school. Furthermore, according to the latest Trends in International Mathematics and Science Study (TIMMS; 2014/2015), New Zealand students experienced bullying behaviours at school more frequently than students in the majority of other participating countries.

Although a number of anti-bullying programmes are available, these do not seem to be widely used in New Zealand. There has been little progress made in recent decades with regard to reducing the prevalence of bullying (Smith et al., 2016). Recently an evidence-based anti-bullying programme known as KiVa, which was developed in Finland, has been introduced to New Zealand in 2015.

KiVa, (which means kindness in Finnish), is a whole school programme that has both an intervention and prevention focus. In particular, schools are provided with detailed lesson plans that are dynamic and experiential, along with interactive online games to reinforce the concepts. Participating schools are also provided with a step-by-step guide on how to deal with bullying issues as they arise. The programme has a strong evidence base including randomized control trials. The evaluations have revealed that when implemented appropriately, it is a highly successful programme which results in significant decreases in bullying and victimization (e.g., Kärnä, Voeten, Little, Poskiparta, Kalijonen, & Salmivalli, 2011).

The participants in this study included 5,288 school-aged children from 14 different primary and secondary schools in New Zealand. The 23 item online anonymous survey was developed in Finland and included questions from the Revised Olweus Bully/Victim Questionnaire (OBVQ; Olweus, 1996) relating to children’s experiences of bullying and victimization.

The findings from this preliminary evaluation of KiVa suggest that after one year of implementation there was a significant perceived decrease in the frequency of bullying, the frequency of victimization (both traditionally and via the internet) and an increase in students’ feelings of safety within their school environment. The findings from the present small-scale evaluation are encouraging as they are comparable to those found in Finland, where after only one year of implementation there was perceived to be a significant drop in bullying and victimization and this trend continued over the ensuing years (Herkama, & Salmivalli, 2014).

In the present study, there was also a significant change from baseline to after 1 year of KiVa with regard to what teachers were perceived to be doing to decrease bullying. This suggests that there has been a good level of buy-in by the teachers in the participating schools. Similarly, as the majority of students indicated that they had participated in KiVa lessons in the previous year and approximately half stated that they really enjoyed them, this suggests that the programme appears to have good initial fidelity and appeal. This preliminary evaluation is limited in that we were not able to track individual children and it is a relatively small sample. However, despite these limitations this preliminary evaluation has demonstrated that KiVa appears to be working by reducing levels of victimization and bullying in those schools who have chosen to implement KiVa.”

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