MMG Education’s 2021 research has confirmed the increased level of importance parents are placing on their child’s wellbeing, and on the school to provide a safe and caring environment.
This has resulted in parents having increased expectations of the quality of student wellbeing initiatives provided by their child’s school, and as a major influencer in decisions to select a new school.
However, our research suggests that many parents have a less than informed knowledge as to the extent of resources and programs in place to educate, support and help students regarding such matters as gender, equality, inclusiveness, health, anxiety and stress.
It is a challenge for schools to provide parents with a better understanding of the range and extent of efforts directed to the care, welfare and safety of students.
In recent research, we observed the following examples that can impact the wellbeing of students in the school environment:
- Gender, equality, inclusiveness — education, forums, speakers, student engagement with schools with different genders
- Student management/bullying — education, handling of bullying matters, fairness, consistency, intervention
- Counselling services — trust, privacy, access, helpfulness, follow-up
- Mentor and/or wellbeing sessions — skillsets of staff, frequency, content, duration, knowing every student well, handling issues
- Stress (generated from academic related areas) — preparing for/sitting exams, assessments, homework, student marks, parent expectations, peer pressure, self-pressure
- Student autonomy — agency, independence, choice
- Student voice — availability, facilitation, listening, feedback
- Sports and co-curricular activities — team selections, game time, coach’s awareness of wellbeing
- Wellbeing programs — outdoor, mental health, life experiences
- Parent education — what bullying is, how it is being addressed
- Parent forums on wellbeing.
Many schools have developed extensive programs and initiatives which embrace these factors.
In relation to wellbeing support in primary schools or in schools with junior campuses, the class teacher is key to providing effective and holistic engagement with their students, supported by specialist staff and counselling services as required. Class teachers have the opportunity to know every student well, to develop a strong bond and level of trust as role models.
In schools with a secondary campus, the wellbeing model is much more complex and challenging, as the number of staff likely to engage with each student is large and their specialities diverse. In some cases, these staff may not possess the skills that are essential when it comes to wellbeing, nor have been trained sufficiently in such matters.
It is worth noting that, across the secondary years (Years 7 to 12), further segmentation of wellbeing programs tailored to stages of student development (Years 7-8, 9-10, 11-12) has been an effective wellbeing management strategy.
In terms of staff who play important roles in student wellbeing, the table below shows those roles highlighted by students themselves as providing a positive impact.
- Chaplaincy staff
- Co-curricular staff
- Counselling staff
- Heads of year
- Heads of house
- Mentors/pastoral care staff (major role)
- Sports staff (coaches)
- Teaching staff
The development of staff skills related to wellbeing, as role models for students and ensuring that every student is known and feels valued, is of critical importance. It will enable staff to understand the wellbeing needs of each student more effectively, and to proactively initiate ways of supporting those who need it.
It is also key to ensure parents are aware of the significance your school places on student wellbeing, the professionalism of your staff, the extent of your wellbeing programs and action plans in place to address the wellbeing of your students. This can be achieved through regular and proactive communication and engagement with parents.
Tony Pfeiffer is the Founding Partner of MMG Education, a leader in tailored school stakeholder research and performance benchmarking. Tony served on the board of a leading independent school for over nine years and has decades of corporate experience in senior executive roles. mmgeducation.com.au