Address: Kiel 7, 9733EB Groningen

Country: Netherlands

 School website

Project: Vreedzame Wijk Lewenborg XL (‘peaceful neighbourhood’) + Student Voice (Erasmus+ / SLO)

Working language during the project:

  • Dutch

Themes of the Council of Europe campaign “FREE to SPEAK, SAFE to LEARN - Democratic Schools for All” covered:

  • Making children’s and students’ voices heard
  • Preventing violence and bullying
  • Improving well-being at school

Competences from the Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture (CDC) addressed and where / how they were integrated:

  • Conflict-resolution skills
    Pupil mediators at group-/school level
  • Civic-mindedness
    Pupil council at school- /neighbourhood level
  • Empathy
    Social-emotional skills within the programme of ‘de Vreedzame School’ (the ‘peaceful’ group/school/neighbourhood)

Target group age range:

  • 5-11


Level of education:

  • Primary education

Short description of the project:

In 2010, 5 primary schools, 2 secondary schools and 3 organisations for day-care and youth-health in the neighbourhood Lewenborg (Groningen) started to implement the programme ‘de Vreedzame School’ (the peaceful school) and promised to work hard to become a peaceful neighbourhood / community by 2020! (“It takes a whole village to raise a child”).

In 2018, the city-council supported this initiative and granted funding to carry out an ‘integrated pedagogical approach’ (2019-2023) at the neighbourhood-level.

Several partners (citizen-groups included) work together to improve the chances of all children living in our neighbourhood (on subjects such as poverty, well-being, health, sports, culture, education).

Within the primary schools we use the method / materials of ‘de Vreedzame School’.

There is a guidebook for each school year (group 1 – 8). We do not focus on ‘lessons’ but on establishing a positive, democratic school-culture. We do focus on wellbeing, trying to prevent bullying and discrimination, teaching about aspects of citizenship / the political system and try to increase ‘ownership’, responsibility and the autonomy of the pupils.

At the start of each school year we do a lot of activities on getting to know each-other better in the group, deciding on a set of own group-rules and electing pupils to become mediators or member of a council. We have educated pupil-mediators who discuss and try to solve minor conflicts between the children themselves and we have a pupil-council at every school and a children-council at the neighbourhood-level. They have their own (small) financial budget.

Our school is a Jenaplanschool (by the ideas of Peter Petersen, similar to Montessori and Freinet) and we focus on the role of children in their own learning-process. As such we participated in the Erasmus+ project of Student Voice.

The pupils work in 3 age-groups (grade 1+2) (grade 3+4+5) (grade 6+7+8). So younger children can learn from older children who can support younger children. The children learn to accept all kinds of differences between them in character and talents. Their role changes as they progress through the different age groups. 

The teachers have to give instructions / lessons on several (sometimes individual) levels.

The basic skills (literacy, numeracy) are taught by year-group-level, but all 3 age groups come together for the other activities (‘discovering the world’). Children work on a daily- or weekly-task and when they are able to, they can decide whether to follow an instruction. They can also choose individual activities as extra work.

‘De Vreedzame School’ is about an integrated pedagogical approach, using a behaviour and language similar to the adults who raise these children. It takes a while to get results, it is hard work, but it is very motivating to work with eager, motivated and happy children!

In the Netherlands there are around 200 primary schools based on Jenaplan, there are around 1000 primary school who use the approach of ‘de Vreedzame School’, there are around 20 (city)neighbourhoods which are ‘a peaceful neighbourhood’.



The 3 main objectives / themes of ‘de Vreedzame School (+neighbourhood)’ are:

  • to raise the children in a safe living environment
  • to raise the children in a healthy living environment
  • to give the children equal opportunities to use and enrich their own individual talents


Expected results/outcomes

Our approach / plan is monitored by the University of Groningen. We discuss all kinds of data (objective: percentage of unemployed youth to ‘soft data’: how satisfied are children about their role, about their playgrounds etc.)

We really try to work together to reach an optimal living environment for all the children in our neighbourhood, a place where they are seen and heard, where they are important, participating and active.



The increased commitment of all professionals who are involved with our children to speak the same ‘pedagogical’ language, to use the same ‘peaceful’ approaches, to work together.

Children who have an increased role in the community, who are more heard and seen, who have a ‘student voice’.


Challenges you faced

To start from scratch, from great ideas to small initiatives, to keep inspiring partners, to keep working hard, to convince policy-makers, to earn trust and time.


Time-frame of the project:

  • 2010-2020 Becoming a ‘peaceful neighbourhood’
  • 2019-2023 Recent neighbourhood-plan Lewenborg XL


Council of Europe materials on citizenship and human rights education used while preparing or implementing your practice:

  • Reference Framework of Competences for Democratic Culture

Additional material provided by the school