Over the past decade, children in Australia have been the beneficiaries of a movement in K-12 education that not only prioritises student mental health but makes wellbeing an integral part of the school experience. In schools across the country, leaders, teachers, and wellbeing teams have developed learning environments that enable students to be healthy, happy, engaged, and successful.
The COVID-19 pandemic accentuated the status of student wellbeing in Australia –which was already quite worrying:
- 25% of students experience bullying (1)
- Almost one in seven (13.9 %) of 4-17 year-olds were assessed as having mental disorders in the previous 12 months. This is equivalent to 560,000 Australian children and adolescents. (2)
- 50% of mental health problems are established by age 14 (3)
- 10% of children and young people (aged 5-16 years) have a clinically diagnosable mental problem (4) yet 70% of children and adolescents who experience mental health problems have not had appropriate interventions at a sufficiently early age. (5)
Tackling student wellbeing was a significant challenge for educators worldwide even before the tumultuous last 18months. What sets Australia apart from the rest of the world is the fact that we’re one of the only countries to have a national Student Wellbeing Framework. This framework reinforces the need for a model that helps identify students with emerging mental health needs before they reach a crisis state and also helps to prevent some of those issues, to begin with.
Educator Impact works with forward-thinking schools that take a very preventative approach to wellbeing, captured in three words: notice, inquire and provide, or NIP (as in, “NIP issues in the bud”). This simple acronym reflects our educators’ core belief that focusing on wellbeing enables us to provide support to students earlier — and often in a more measured manner — with the aim of preventing ill-being or more serious mental health issues that may put the student and others at risk and require more serious interventions. Implementing a student support system based on NIP can be incredibly powerful, but it won’t just happen on its own. Supporting the whole student is everyone’s responsibility, it can’t just be down to individual teachers –who do an incredible job.
For schools looking to put in place a holistic system for student wellbeing, below are some of the best practices that we have found to be most instrumental from our experience:
1. Lean on regular, frequent data.
Student wellbeing, both for individual students and for a student body, changes from day to day in response to numerous variables and factors. A once-a-year survey on climate and culture simply can’t capture the nuance needed to understand the daily and weekly changes in wellbeing and climate. What’s needed are formative systems that easily fit within a teacher’s regular practice that allow schools to collect data on wellbeing quickly and frequently.
A growing number of schools around the world are using Educator Impact’s Pulse tool every week to receive updates on student wellbeing through short, 60-second check-ins. Students log in and click a color that corresponds with how they’re feeling: green for good, yellow for so-so, and red for “I need help.” That allows educators to intervene with students who may be struggling — and who otherwise wouldn’t have brought it to the staff’s attention.
Students also answer a handful of questions on their experience in school based on a very rigorous framework called ‘the nest’ developed by ARACY in collaboration with hundreds of experts and represents the voices of thousands of young children. These strategic questions provide great data on a range of potential wellbeing and teaching and learning issues that schools use to take necessary actions.
"When we started our SEAD program, we were looking at different ways of gathering data regarding students’ wellbeing. With Pulse we are capturing evidence to see if our programs are working, if our wellbeing strategies are working, and how those insights inform future (wellbeing) programs.” –Nicole Archard, Principal Loreto College
2. Amplify and respond to student voices.
Collecting information on wellbeing more frequently helps us better know our students and become more responsive to their needs. Student’s voice enables teachers to make the best decisions for and about their students. This cycle of gathering information to understand how student experiences shape their mental health and wellbeing — and then responding to student concerns or questions — creates a powerful feedback loop, one that further encourages students to share their voice and articulate their feelings.
The result is a culture where students know their opinions are heard, respected, and acted upon by the educators in their school.
3. Ensure buy-in from staff and families
For a wellbeing strategy to succeed teachers need to hear from school leaders that wellbeing is a priority, and they must have the tools they need to make that happen. More importantly, wellbeing tools need to be a net time-saver for every person in your organisation, taking into account the specific needs and workload of everyone involved in wellbeing at your school.
Buy-in is guaranteed if leaders have a quick snapshot into the overall health of the school, teachers have the ability to identify patterns and address issues before they become problems, and wellbeing teams & counsellors have a friction-free way to connect with students.
A true shift in a school’s climate and culture requires frequent data, developing staff capacity, a shared language for students to express their emotions — and an easy way for them to reach out to the adults in their lives when they need help.
Why choose ei Pulse weekly check-ins
In the last year, schools using ei Pulse have:
- Identified students that were not previously on their 'wellbeing radar'
- Supported more than 2600 students who used the 'I need help' feature
- Stayed connected with over 70k students through almost 1 million check-ins.
Join a growing number of schools around the world using ei Pulse weekly check-ins to support their students' and staff's social-emotional wellbeing and development. Start with a Demo today >
- Kids Help Line: Bullying. https://kidshelpline.com.au/teens/issues/bullying
- Australian Psychology Society (2018): The framework for effective delivery of school psychology services: https://www.psychology.org.au/getmedia/249a7a14-c43e-4add-aa6b-decfea6e810d/Framework-sch ools-psychologists-leaders.pdf
- 5 Kessler RC, Berglund P, Demler O, Jin R, Merikangas KR, Walters EE. (2005). Lifetime Prevalence and Age-of-Onset Distributions of DSM-IV Disorders in the National Comorbidity Survey Replication. Archives of General Psychiatry, 62 (6) pp. 593-602. doi:10.1001/archpsyc.62.6.593
- Green,H., Mcginnity, A., Meltzer, Ford, T., Goodman,R. 2005 Mental Health of Children and Young People in Great Britain: 2004. Office for National Statistics.
- Children’s Society (2008) The Good Childhood Inquiry: health research evidence. London: Children’s Society.
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