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Safeguarding, student wellbeing and effective learning

Written by: Anastasia Georgiou
3 min read

Note: The author of this article, Anastasia Soola Georgiou, works for Veema Education, an organisation offering chargeable consultancy services to schools on a range of topics.

Schools have a responsibility to safeguard and promote the welfare of children (Department for Education, 2016). Safeguarding involves protecting children from maltreatment, preventing the impairment of children’s health or development, ensuring that children grow up with the provision of safe and effective care, and working to enable children and young people to achieve the best outcomes. This is important for learning because children with higher levels of emotional, behavioural, social and school wellbeing, are, on average, more engaged in school and have higher levels of academic achievement (Morrison Gutman and Vorhaus, 2012).

Addressing mental health problems can be a key component of safeguarding. Research shows that 50% of lifetime mental illness starts by the age of 14 (Hagell et al., 2013). Behavioural problems in children can indicate a risk of developing mental health problems (Brown et al., 2012), and school staff may be in position to identify and respond to this as a safeguarding concern.

Introducing social and emotional learning into the classroom improves mental health as well as learning outcomes and benefits young people in the long-term (Taylor et al., 2017). Evidence suggests that the following school support systems can improve both academic and mental health outcomes, by promoting positive social and emotional wellbeing (Weare, 2015):

  • Adopt whole school thinking– this involves everyone working consistently in developing an ethos and culture which promotes trust, focus and purpose; the promotion of communication, acceptance of emotion, respect and the celebration of diversity; the promotion of staff wellbeing, providing support systems to address staff stress; the development of an environment that supports school ‘connectedness’: a feeling of being accepted, respected and bonded to the school environment. In turn, levels of conflict and disruptive behaviour will decrease and a sense of responsiveness to the individual needs of children will be encouraged. Promoting the voice of the child and engaging parents adds strength and depth, making interventions more effective, while also developing parenting capacity and attitudes (Adi et al., 2007).
  • Prioritise professional learning – this includes working to develop staff understanding of risk factors to wellbeing, helping children become more resilient, raising awareness of mental health, supporting children and young people with transitional arrangements and keeping up-to-date on the impact of social media and challenges posed by new technology.
  • Develop supportive policy and practice– robust policies on behaviour, anti-bullying and diversity will help with tackling prejudice and taking positive steps to de-stigmatise mental health.
  • Implement targeted responses and identify specialist pathways– this involves provision of work on social and emotional skill development for children with difficulties, the use of one-to-one support and group work, using specialist staff to initiate innovative and specialist programmes before transferring responsibility to mainstream staff, ensuring that there are clear pathways for help, referral and intervention and developing a coherent teamwork approach.
  • Connect appropriately with approaches to behaviour management– this means responding wisely to ‘difficult’ behaviour, use of clear consequences while understanding its deeper roots; taking opportunities to model and teach positive behaviours.

 

Taking a well-planned and clear approach to safeguarding through the curriculum, reinforced by a stimulating, positive and solution-focused continuing professional development programme for staff, can support a strong school ethos, enabling a positive learning environment for students and a better working environment for staff.

 

References

Adi Y, Killoran A, Janmohamed K, et al. (2007) Systematic review of the effectiveness of interventions to promote mental wellbeing in primary education. Report 1: universal approaches which do not focus on violence and bullying. National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence.
Brown E, Khan L and Parsonage M (2012) A Chance to Change: Delivering effective parenting programmes to transform lives. Centre for Mental Health.
Department for Education . (2016) Keeping children safe in education: Statutory guidance for schools and colleges. Department for Education .
Hagell A, Coleman J and Brooks F (2013) Key Data on Adolescence 2013 . Association for Young People’s Health.
Morrison Gutman L and Vorhaus J (2012) The Impact of Pupil Behaviour and Wellbeing on Education Outcomes. Department for Education .
Taylor D, Oberle E and Durlak J (2017) Promoting Positive Youth Development Through School‐Based Social and Emotional Learning Interventions: A Meta‐Analysis of Follow‐Up Effects. Child Development 88(4): 1156–1171.
Weare K (2015) What works in promoting social and emotional well-being and responding to mental health problems in schools? Partnership for Wellbeing and Mental Health in Schools.
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