reframing bullying

the vertical class


Can we redesign the structure of a primary school?

Bullying in school is a big and impactful problem. It can turn the place that is supposed to be about freedom, play, social and personal development into a place of fear, anger and hatred. Many projects and education-programs have been developed with the aim to overcome (or reduce) bullying in schools. But very few of them have the intended effect. Together with Garage 2020 Rotterdam we deepened ourselves in the concept of bullying in order to come to new and refreshing ideas. 

With the concept of ‘the vertical class’, we aim to overcome the negative effects the horizontal structure of a primary school has on the behaviour of children. In a common primary school, classes are structured horizontally. Consisting out of 25 to 35 children all of the same age. Since there is no natural hierarchy these homogenous groups are a fruitful base for bullying behaviour. 

The vertical class is a heterogenous group, with children from every horizontal layer. The (age) differences between all the members of the group will lead to a natural hierarchy. The vertical group meets once a week and undertakes activities that strengthen both the group and the individual. During these vertical classes, children will build their network, reflect on their own situation and experience with new roles and a new social structure. 

The rest of the week, the vertical links throughout the school creates connectedness and safety. 

To be able to evaluate the social effect of ‘the vertical class’ Garage 2020 is looking for schools that would like to conduct in a pilot. For more information check out the website:

Project kick-off: 
October 2016
Project delivered: 
October 2017
Project size: 
Project developers: 
Beatrijs Voorneman
Mother project: 
Public space
Service design
Policy design
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