Almost everyone in education will have an approximate definition of student wellbeing in their head – the term is everywhere these days. If student wellbeing wasn’t being talked about enough before the pandemic, it certainly is now.
The ISI (Independent Schools Inspectorate) recently released a series of proposals for incorporating student wellbeing into their inspection remit, and a body of evidence is growing around the concept of ‘whole-school approaches’ to wellbeing. Now, more than ever, the onus has been placed on Independent and International Schools to come up with comprehensive policies to support students.
While the circumstances that have thrown wellbeing into sharper relief are unfortunate, the elevation of student wellbeing to a primary issue in schools can only be a positive thing for students. After all, it's logical to assume that happy students are better learners.
In this article we’ll explore:
- How is student wellbeing defined?
- Why is student wellbeing important?
- Who is responsible for student wellbeing?
- The new ISI (Independent Schools Inspectorate) framework
- The whole-school approach to wellbeing
- Research-based recommendations for achieving a whole-school approach
- How can iSAMS help?
How is student wellbeing defined?
There are many different definitions of wellbeing, but student wellbeing considers the mental and physical wellbeing of students in the specific context of their educational journey.
One well-known approach to defining wellbeing is by American psychologist and educator Martin Seligman who designed the PERMA Model, which represents what he classifies as the five core elements of happiness and wellbeing:
- Positive emotions
- Positive Relationships
The ISI in the UK defines student wellbeing by section 10(2) of the Children Act 2004, relating to:
- Pupils’ physical and mental health and emotional wellbeing
- Protection of pupils from harm and neglect
- Pupils’ education, training and recreation
- Pupils’ contribution to society
- Pupils’ social and economic wellbeing
Why is student wellbeing important?
A recent study from Oxford Impact, which drew on data from a wide range of countries, found that there is a strong correlation between a student’s wellbeing and what they accomplish academically.
There is also compelling evidence to suggest that wellbeing is also associated with a range of other student outcomes, including engagement, mental health, self-esteem, self-efficacy, motivation, behaviour and decreased probability of dropout.
Who is responsible for student wellbeing?
According to the ISI, their new inspection framework proposal ‘places the responsibility of the school’s leadership and management and governance to actively promote the wellbeing of pupils.’ This approach highlights the need for school leadership to foster an environment that actively promotes student wellbeing, but responsibility must also be apportioned to parents and guardians, teachers and the students themselves.
The new ISI (Independent Schools Inspectorate) framework
The ISI is planning to introduce a new inspection framework at the start of the next inspection cycle in September 2023, including the following proposed changes:
- Emphasising the importance of school leaders’ responsibility to actively promote the wellbeing of all pupils.
- Reflecting on the significant changes across education and wider society over the past six years.
The ISI goes on to suggest the inspections will:
‘Inspect against the Standards through the lens of pupil wellbeing. The first section of our reports will emphasise the importance of leadership and management, as well as summarising key findings from the whole inspection. This will be followed by sections relating to the five areas included within the statutory definition of child wellbeing. This will ensure our reports focus on pupils' wellbeing while capturing the breadth of provision and the range of pupils’ experiences in each school.’
What is a whole-school approach to wellbeing?
A whole-school approach to wellbeing is a comprehensive, widespread approach to wellbeing that is implemented, encouraged and actively managed by School Leadership Teams (SLTs). This includes championing efforts to promote mental health and wellbeing throughout the school community.
Recommendations for achieving a whole-school approach
The Oxford Impact study gives several recommendations for implementing a whole-school intervention or strategy for promoting wellbeing, for it to have positive effects on student academic and other outcomes.
Some of the key advice from multiple authors based on empirical evidence suggests that schools should...
- Tailor to and account for your school's specific context
a. When developing a whole-school strategy, current school policies and strategies should be assessed to identify strengths and weaknesses.
b. Put clear systems and processes in place to help staff identify children and young people with possible mental health problems; providing routes to escalate issues with clear referral and accountability systems.
c. Ensure that there are robust policies and practice in place to tackle key areas such as behaviour, anti-bullying and diversity, including tackling prejudice and stigma around mental health.
- Take an integrated, cross-level (school and classroom) approach.
- Actively engage the wider community, including parents/families.
- Focus on professional development for teachers to support them with implementation.
- Put monitoring systems in place to keep track of and adjust implementation as needed.
- Ensure that sufficient time and resources are available to support implementation.
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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