Spotlight On: Wellbeing in Schools

12 May 2023


This article first appeared in Queenwood Weekly News on Friday 12 May 2023.

We have never been more concerned about “wellbeing” but its definition is influenced by the lens through which one sees it. For a parent, the wellbeing of their daughter will be associated with happiness, a strong sense of security and good health. For a student, their wellbeing will also be linked to acceptance, friendships, and personal achievement. For teachers, wellbeing is also multidimensional, as we are concerned with cognitive, emotional, social, physical, and spiritual growth.

For me, one definition particularly resonates: “Wellbeing refers to a positive sense of self and belonging and the skills to make positive and healthy choices to support learning and achievement, provided in a safe and accepting environment for all students”.

Despite these slight nuances in our understanding of the word, we can all agree that the wellbeing of our children is extremely important. Yet recent statistics are stark. Self-harm or suicidal ideation presentations by girls aged 13-17 in New South Wales increased by 47.1% from 2019 to 2021, whilst there was no change in presentations by boys. Socio-economically advantaged areas experienced the fastest acceleration in presentation rates. The application of these statistics to our students is obvious.

At Queenwood, a whole school approach supports the wellbeing of the individual child. Every student K – 12 participates in a wellbeing program aligned to their age and need. For example, a child in Year 3 will be talking about building healthy friendships, whilst a child in Year 8 will be unpacking and tackling courageous conversations. For Year 12, they will be considering the power of perseverance and linking it to their personal goals. Whilst the nature of discussion changes with each year, all our programming seeks to build our students social and emotional competencies.

Research has confirmed a strong correlation between success in life and command of the five social and emotional capabilities: self-management, self-awareness, social awareness, relationships, and responsible decision-making. These capabilities build independence and the capacity to make good decision, and encourage the child to take responsibility for themselves and others.

These capabilities are also fostered by daily interactions with our students; the nature of our teaching and communication and the development of relationships within and outside the classroom. The nature of discussion in assemblies (for example, as Ms Stone tackles the impact of cognitive distortions on happiness) or of interactions on the sports field, are all examples of our deliberate and comprehensive approach to student wellbeing at Queenwood.

As educators we must be cognisant of the dynamic world our children are navigating and ensure we adopt best practice. Hence, in 2023 we have implemented two very different initiatives, both in support of wellbeing.

Firstly, the SmartStudy Program for Years 9 and 10 is an opportunity to give our students skills which empower them to manage their learning and build self-efficacy in the academic domain. We normally think of study skills as an academic program but the data tell us that the demands of study are the single most significant source of stress, so equipping them to manage this is as much a wellbeing initiative as an academic one. Secondly, the Parent Seminar Series provides an opportunity to unpack some key themes of raising and supporting children K – 12.

Both of these programs represent our holistic approach to supporting the wellbeing of our students.