Theme – Wellbeing
Student wellbeing is a broad term that encompasses many dimensions including cognitive, social, physical and emotional wellbeing. Evidence shows that higher levels of wellbeing are linked to higher academic achievement, school completion, better overall mental health and a more pro-social and responsible lifestyle.
Supporting student wellbeing in a school is the responsibility of all staff. Practices and initiatives that support student wellbeing are most effective when they promote a supportive environment across the whole school.
Practical strategies for promoting student wellbeing
What works best in practice (pages 29-32) provides teachers with key strategies on how to:
- select and develop strategies to proactively teach healthy coping strategies, resilience and self-regulation
- initiate strategies to build a positive learning environment in the classroom characterised by supportive relationships and regular contact with each student
- target support for different phases of student development and for students who may be at risk
- use collaborative strategies and share with staff across the school, the school community, and other agencies as required, to support the wellbeing of students.
The reflection toolkit (page 8) provides a framework and support to teachers when implementing these evidence-based strategies.
Video conversation with Cecil Hills High School
In this video, Mark Scott, former Secretary of the NSW Department of Education, speaks with Cecil Hills High School Principal, Mark Sutton, about how every student is known, valued and cared for in a large, comprehensive high school. Students give insights into some of the ways their school supports student wellbeing.
Well, today I’m speaking with Principal Mark Sutton and students at Cecil Hills High School about the ‘What works best’ theme of wellbeing. Mark, you run a big high school – 1400 students. How do you ensure that every student is known, valued, and cared for in a large, comprehensive high school?
So one of the main ways is through our Connect program. Now, that is a rollcall program we implemented a few years ago, and essentially students at our school will have the same rollcall teacher from Year 7 to Year 12. And in a large high school where we have about 250 students in each grade, we don’t want anyone to be just a number in the system. We don’t want anyone to be lost in that. So the role of the Connect teacher is to, as the name suggests, connect, succeed, and thrive with those individual students from Year 7 all the way up until Year 12.
Part of what they’re able to do is to track data on their class. So we were nominated for a T4L award for our Connect app, which is something that we developed in-house. Basically what it allows our teachers to do is have a look at that important data that supports wellbeing first thing in the morning. So they can have a look at lateness, they can have a look at behaviour, they can have a look at attendance. They can have a look at uniform, diary, whether students are bringing their device, and we capture all of that data so that we have that information available.
Mark, we know that wellbeing and students’ wellbeing is a value and importance in its own right, but do you see spin-off effects from this focus on wellbeing as far as student progress is concerned, student engagement, and then finally student achievement?
Yeah, so, look – I mean, students do have to be happy little vegemites. In order for them to be successful at school, we’ve got to get those basics right. It is essential that we focus on the basics: getting them to school; making sure they are ready for learning; making sure that they are engaged in their curriculum; and making sure that they have a pathway, whatever that pathway is for them.
There is a part of the SEF that does talk about having a planned approach to wellbeing. It’s important for every school, I think, to have an idea, a scope and sequence in terms of when the welfare events are going to be happening. So our welfare team is very clear from Year 7 to Year 12 when all of those events are taking place, and we also plan from Year 5. So when students are in Year 5, that’s when we select the year advisors. We’re undergoing that process right now for our 2022 cohort. With our year advisors and the welfare team, they do have a long lead time in terms of when they are able to access help within the school.
So, Jessica, how does the school there support student wellbeing? What’s been your experience of it?
Our school supports student wellbeing through lots of ways. We have lots of facilities, including Stymie, which is basically like an online resource which students can anonymously talk about issues with other students, anonymously so they don’t feel pressure to tell someone in person. We also have ‘Tell Them From Me’ survey, which is a survey, basically, for students and how they’re feeling with each subject and teachers and their homework. And we also have our Connect classes – so, like, our rollcalls, where they have one teacher from Year 7 to 12, which can basically give them a sense of someone who’s constantly there for their whole high school career, someone they can lean on with more day-to-day issues.
We want to improve teaching practice, school planning and see improvement across NSW education. There’s a lot more information available for you about ‘What works best’ in the NSW Department of Education website.