Wellbeing in Our Schools Today Prepares Our Students for Tomorrow
Globally, concern and public discourse regarding the social and emotional wellbeing of young people has intensified in recent times. This goes hand in hand with increasing policy development, recommendations, and initiatives forthcoming from peak bodies regarding the delivery and formation of wellbeing programs in schools – and inviting questions about what responsibility do schools of today play in the formation and delivery of wellbeing to the young people in their care.
In an ever-crowded curriculum and increased emphasis on values, ethics and compliance, are all schools shifting at a rate that is fast enough to deliver a contemporary education to our young people – one that meets the needs of today’s generation? In this context, it is timely to explore and pay close attention to how the current environment provides conceptual clarity and implementation pathways for wellbeing in our schools.
First, it is fair to assume that each school, albeit in their own way, develops and implements a wellbeing framework that aligns with their ethos, mission and values. These wellbeing frameworks generally aim to equip students with the skills and tools to navigate understanding of self and the complexities of our social world. For many years, research has argued it is the combination of these tools which leads to a foundational understanding of self and thus a robust connectivity to happiness, life satisfaction and improved health outcomes.
More broadly, benefits of health promotion and wellbeing programs are well known, having evolved from a focus on the mere physical being. As educators in the business of shaping young minds we have a moral imperative to ensure we are equipping our students with the emotional understanding and capabilities to thrive now and into the future. Indeed, research demonstrates that a lack of health promotion and evidence-based wellbeing interventions in young people has a significant correlation to increased self-harm, risk taking behaviour, stress, anxiety, unhealthy lifestyle choices and rates of youth suicide. This can have a devastating impact not on individual productivity and feelings of self-worth. Considering the broader effect on health and wellbeing as a resource on a national and global scale it is evident proactive and reactive wellbeing frameworks are essential. Wellbeing is everyone’s business.
What we know to be true in education is that wellbeing and teaching and learning cannot be disconnected and in fact, are inextricably linked. Schools assume this responsibility in our communities. The African proverb, it takes a village – remains at the forefront of this lens. Perhaps a somewhat controversial topic for another day is the question of the beginning and end of this responsibility. Much social commentary and debate surrounds the role educational institutions in our society play, however, what cannot be argued is the critical role schools play in child and adolescent development.
This debate and specifically, wellbeing in schools represents the necessary alliance of scholarship around child and adolescent development, education, and health. We as educators know the students we teach. This knowledge is the lever to optimal student outcomes which are reached with connection, authenticity, and the appropriate motivation. This lens prompts the timely reminder and necessity to ensure content is theoretically grounded and evidence based. If we collectively feel as educators that it is our moral imperative to engage our young people in the conversation, then the continued impetus must be on how we implement and measure wellbeing outcomes in our context.
The increasing agency of our students means they are capable and active contributors to today’s society. We are not just preparing them for the world beyond our gates. We must continue to provide them with opportunities to engage in this discourse, connect with one another and explore their sense of self. It is with this that each individual will be equipped to positively interact with the world and their place in it, in order to truly ensure each child can reach their full potential.
Teagan Collins | Deputy Principal