As one of the biggest barriers to learning in recent years, managing mental health is one of the most significant challenges we face in the modern school environment. With many schools transitioning to an online learning environment following recent circumstances, how do we manage student wellbeing and online learning?
With limited resources and hundreds of students under your school’s care, alongside your school community having to adjust to digital learning, it puts a huge amount of pressure on staff members to meet safeguarding requirements and provide each student with the best possible experience in their pathway to higher education.
So, how can we continue to support students to improve their wellbeing?
We’ve explored some of the things schools around the world are currently doing to improve student wellbeing, so you can see if any of them might work for you and your school.
Online Mindfulness Workshops
Many schools have reported how demanding the timetable can seem when lessons are moved online, so it’s worth encouraging students to take 10 minutes to pause and reflect on their thoughts and feelings. Some individuals ground themselves by thinking about their feet on the floor, while others concentrate on their breathing; a technique known as mindfulness.
In its simplest terms, mindfulness helps train your attention to be more aware of what is happening in the present moment, instead of worrying about what has already happened or might happen in the future. Although there’s not currently a wide base of evidence for the effectiveness of mindfulness in enhancing student wellbeing, the Department for Education is funding a major project to find the most effective ways of promoting positive mental health in schools, and one of the five approaches being trialled is mindfulness.
Despite the lack of evidence, schools don’t seem to be deterred from adopting it as a strategy to improve the mental health of their students. The growing demand has resulted in a number of charities and organisations emerging to support the training and implementation of mindfulness activities in schools. One such charity is the Mindfulness in Schools Project.
“It’s about training your attention to notice what is going on. If you are aware of that, you can choose how to respond, for example to manage the amygdala, the part of the brain that detects fear and prepares a response.”
Richard Burnett, Teacher and Founder of the Mindfulness in Schools Project
Some schools are implementing this in the digital sphere by incorporating mindfulness drop-in sessions to break up the potentially demanding online learning schedule. In doing so, you can ensure that access to these stress-busting activities are more readily available for students.
Not only this, but these could double-up to help your teachers and other members of staff who may also be struggling with the switch online. If they themselves also dial into mindfulness classes or learn to lead them, it will introduce them to useful techniques that they could use to help improve their own mental health and wellbeing.
Digital Wellbeing Trackers
As student wellbeing is such a crucial aspect of school life, you need to make sure you have effective systems and processes in place to monitor and manage it – and, at a time when every penny counts, automating as much of this as possible is essential.
As a result, many schools are looking for digital platforms that integrate with their management information systems to record, monitor and manage all student concerns as and when they arise. One such tool is our Wellbeing Manager which, built to adhere to the UK and international safeguarding regulations, specifically caters to your teachers and Pastoral teams by providing them with everything they need to deliver proactive and preventative care for every student.
With software such as this, it’s now possible for your school to log all safeguarding concerns against single or multiple students, set recommended and pursued actions, monitor and update their status, and notify key members of staff and parents or legal guardians – all in a single place and regardless of where your staff members are in the world.
Watch a short Q&A session with Lyndsay Newman, iSAMS Customer Account Manager and Nicole Svensson, Designated Safeguarding Lead at Rome International School discuss the iSAMS Wellbeing Manager module used for tracking student wellbeing concerns.
On the day to day, your teaching staff are constantly on the front line, assuming responsibility for each child in their care. Because of this, they are often expected to be the first to witness signs of any wellbeing and safeguarding concerns – but, as with anything, they have a much better chance of noticing them when they know what it is they should be looking for.
To help support your teachers with this, you can invest in some thorough training for all staff members in your pastoral community. This could be delivered via Zoom meetings, recorded webinars or training videos, or distributing links to online resources, so teachers can access this information from the safety of their own homes and at a time most convenient to them. In ensuring that everyone who needs to can access a session, you can give your teachers the knowledge they need and empower them to better support their students.
In some schools, such as Doull Elementary in Dover, USA, they are adopting widely recognised stress-combating activities such as yoga to curb some of the disciplinary problems they’re facing and improve student wellbeing.
“What we love about yoga is that [our students] leave with some actual skills that can help them in life. Doing a math sheet or handwriting sheet didn’t help them solve a problem, didn’t help them recognise what anger feels like in their body.”
Jo Carrigan, Principal at Doull Elementary School
Yoga is renowned for helping those who practice it to dial back both physical and mental difficulties, and research by Harvard Medical School has shown a correlation between regular yoga practice and increased wellbeing, including better sleep, better body awareness, weight loss, and greater happiness.
This means that in offering “virtual” yoga sessions as an online after-school activity or perhaps even incorporating it into your online PE lessons, you could improve multiple areas of students’ lives and teach them a key technique to manage stress which they could easily continue in their own homes.
Tea & Talk Skype Sessions
One of the best ways to promote wellbeing in schools is to increase awareness and encourage a positive dialogue surrounding it by making support more accessible for those who are struggling.
Many schools find that an easy way of doing this is by hosting open “tea & talk” or “cake & chat” online sessions, where students and staff members can speak to a qualified professional and share the difficulties they’re facing, so they can workshop solutions in a secure environment. Some schools have even found that online sessions work better for some students, who find this flexible format less intimidating than face-to-face meetings.
How can iSAMS help?
At iSAMS, we developed our Wellbeing Manager module to help schools create a clear system for recording student concerns.
Key features include:
- Manage all student wellbeing records in a single place
- Quickly find the most relevant information for pastoral care via the interactive dashboard
- Receive notifications whenever a new concern, an action recorded against a concern, or a life event is logged and/or updated
- Set the severity of a concern using the raised flag system: yellow (monitor), green (mild) and red (severe)
- Record concerns against single or multiple students
- Record students' life events
- Control the level of visibility to sensitive records
- Receive automatic indicators for possible concerns, including students being regularly late or absent from classes
Automated workflows and indicators
One of the strengths of the iSAMS MIS (Management Information System) is the ability to pull information from other areas of the system. With this in mind, we reviewed the Wellbeing Manager module to see how we could make use of the data in iSAMS to provide staff with useful insights into student behaviour.
We created workflows to enable school staff to identify trends that indicate a wellbeing concern or an achievement. If a student exhibits a pattern of behaviour, such as frequently being late to (or absent from) lessons, a workflow can be created that triggers an ‘indicator’ (or notification) for relevant staff members, empowering them to act on the issue immediately.
Workflows can therefore eliminate the need for staff to manually run reports by automating the process, saving a considerable amount of time and bringing key data to light immediately.
- Set up custom workflows based on the data and frequency of an event that fits your school’s wellbeing policy
- Receive an indicator each time the workflow criteria are met
- Run the workflow automatically once a day, or else trigger the workflow manually
- Indicators will email relevant staff members, providing notification settings are set up correctly
- Promote the indicator to a concern record
- Dismiss the indicator and automatically put the student into detention
- Dismiss the indicator and manage the event outside of the Wellbeing Manager module
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