As the number of mental health issues in schools continue to rise, so too does the importance of a well-considered wellbeing policy. In order to combat this mental health crisis and allow students to become the best learners possible, schools need to be fully prepared with a definitive checklist and plan of action to tackle the issue head on. Actionable solutions to these problems can help schools weed out these issues from the root.
What is wellbeing?
Wellbeing is usually defined in dictionaries as something along the lines of “being in a state of comfort, health and/or happiness.” But wellbeing is far less fleeting than this concise description might have you believe. The importance of wellbeing in the workplace and at school has seen a rise in publicity in recent years, thanks in part to the introduction of wellbeing policies.
Schools have a responsibility to fully understand wellbeing and its importance in creating a positive learning environment. This allows students to reach their full potential and protects their mental health during stressful periods.
Our view of wellbeing is that it is formed of a number of personal needs, such as finding purpose in what you do, being physically well, being engaged in your community, having an active support network of friends, family or colleagues and being financially stable. Obviously, financial stability and physical wellness are difficult for schools to change, but by focussing on the other areas of wellbeing, schools can improve the lives of students significantly.
The science of wellbeing
Wellbeing is something that is constantly evolving, with each decade revealing more about what we should and shouldn’t be doing as teachers and as colleagues. In the last 10 years wellbeing has been linked with improvements such as higher engagement in schools, fewer mental health problems and better academic performance, to name a few. But as psychological research continues to highlight the importance of wellbeing, schools must also consider the mental health crisis amongst young people.
In the last two years, the number of people seeking help from the Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services has doubled, with some healthcare professionals labelling the problem as an epidemic. With so much time spent at school, teachers and staff have a duty to prevent, identify and deal with students’ mental health issues, so that all students have the opportunity to reach their full potential.
The effects of student wellbeing on the classroom
Student wellbeing has a number of benefits in and out of the classroom. It affects both students and teachers and can even have an impact on home life too. Ensuring that your school has as an actionable wellbeing policy will help to improve student engagement in class and create a learning environment in which students are both happy and giving classwork their undivided attention.
Research has revealed that being around people who are happy can increase wellbeing by 63%, spreading happiness within social circles. This is hugely helpful to schools that have a student wellbeing policy in place as it means that classes are more likely to become happier around other happy students, making for a contagiously content classroom.
Happy students are more likely to engage in classwork and feel more comfortable asking for help. This makes for more productive and constructive lessons in which students are more inclined to share.
Creating a school wellbeing policy
A good wellbeing policy should take into account all stakeholders (students, parents and teachers). It should map out real actionable steps staff members can take to improve school culture and explain how wellbeing will be monitored. Here is a basic outline of what to include in your school’s wellbeing guide.
The importance of mental health and wellbeing - Introduce the wellbeing policy by explaining its importance and where it fits into your school’s culture. Use the wider purpose of wellbeing as a guide to what you want to achieve.
The intentions of this policy - Set out your intentions and what you want your wellbeing policy to achieve in school. If there are specific areas you are going to focus on, make sure you mention them here.
Definition of Wellbeing - Define what is meant by wellbeing and what it means to the school. Some definitions vary, so be sure to clarify the exact definition you’re using.
Policy development - Discuss how and when this policy will be updated with policy changes following new research and how parents will be notified to any changes made.
A whole school approach to wellbeing - Go into detail about the school’s policy and the specific areas and actions that are being taken to improve the school environment for students and teachers.
Staff responsibility - Discuss staff responsibility. What should staff do improve wellbeing in the school. Ensuring consistency among staff members is crucial to implementing a whole-school wellbeing policy.
Supporting student wellbeing and mental health - Set out how you plan on supporting student welfare and development in pupils with mental health needs and how staff can support students that they think are in need.
Involving parents and carers - Have an easy to follow process for staff members to follow when getting parents and carers involved in wellbeing issues.
Staff wellbeing training - Clearly set out the training and support you intend to give to staff to properly equip them for dealing with mental health and wellbeing issues in school
Monitoring and evaluation - Fully explain the way in which the school intends to track and report on student and staff wellbeing.
For more help with creating your wellbeing policy, download our free wellbeing policy checklist