Spotlight on: The Importance of School Connectedness

21 February 2022

Mrs Suzanne Kerr, Director of Wellbeing

This article first appeared in Queenwood Weekly News on Friday 18 February 2022.

One of the most significant themes in the school wellbeing literature is the power of positive relationship and school engagement. No matter the age of the child, whether they are 5, 10, 13 or 18, their feeling of connection to their school is one of the key protective factors in promoting high social and emotional competencies that allow young people to thrive. These include the ability to self-regulate, to develop strong coping and problem-solving skills, and to enjoy positive social connections.

One key ingredient for this feeling of connection is the nature of their peer relationships.

There is no doubt that your daughter thrives when she feels a strong sense of connection with her closest friends. Their experiences together teach them about honesty and trust and help to build their sense of identity and self-esteem. Yet our young people need more than their closest friends, and more than their “besties”. Building a network of different connections allows your daughter to continue to strengthen her own sense of self, to develop lifelong skills in building different relationships, and to witness and enjoy the diversity of others. In essence, different connections help your daughter build a social web that will support her as she grows and changes. 

The journey of friendship can rarely be described as “smooth sailing”. A better description might be “roller coaster". For this reason alone, it is so very important for our students to engage with a range of young people, including those younger and older. Every day we see the power of these cross-year connections. It may be the friendship between the Year 10 and Year 12 student, which flourished during early morning rowing sessions and strengthened through the high and lows of regattas. Or it may be the connection between the older and younger girls through peer mentoring in the Senior School and the Buddies in the Junior School – a connection which endures for years as each of them grows. The older girls who provide mentoring and leadership build their confidence and skills through being recognised and needed. The younger girls in turn grow in courage and resilience and feel a special sense of self-worth because they have earned the attention of their idols.

When your daughters are young, their level of engagement in different activities has a lot to do with you. They are simply enrolled in a sport program, a drama lesson, or a music lesson. Rarely do they question our decision making and we see them flourish, developing new skills and engaging with different people. There may even be the excitement of seeing them find their ‘thing’. Yet, as your daughters mature, their independence grows, their voice becomes that little bit louder and more definite. One or two of their activities may be put to the side and their web of social connection can become slightly more tenuous. 

Generally, Queenwood girls tend to maintain high rates of participation through the last years of school but there is a tendency amongst at least some girls to use their studies as an excuse (or perhaps as cover) to pull back. On the surface, there is a logic to this decision, but our experience shows that, within sensible limits, busy girls study with greater focus and efficiency. More importantly, they stay connected with their peers and a wide range of activities that bring fun and joy and confidence. (Experience also tells us that the four hours saved from Netball practice is rarely devoted to more study!)

This is where we, both parents and teachers, need to hold the line. Conversations which offer this wider perspective can be the most powerful protection for our girls. By giving firm guidance we can ensure our young women maintain their diverse skill set and, most importantly, embrace the opportunity to build connections and flourish.