The wellbeing of our children and young people is essential. Students who are happy and engaged at school are much more likely to be learning, achieving and better equipped for life after school.
Bullying negatively impacts on students’ wellbeing and the Education Review Office insists that all schools focus on its prevention. In every review school boards and principals are asked about the steps in place to ensure students are safe. Our focus includes physical, verbal and emotional bullying, including cyber bullying and homophobic bullying.
We also ask if schools regularly survey their students and analyse that information to measure what students are feeling about their safety and security at school. This is good practice for schools and boards and we encourage them to do this. Schools that regularly anonymously survey their students can expose behaviours that might otherwise go unseen and unreported to adults.
Many schools have very good programmes operating to raise awareness and set expectations around acceptable behaviour. Prevention programmes, whole school programmes and systems which support students to seek help are also important. There is strong awareness of bullying in our system.
Based on a sample of recent school reviews, 92% of boards of trustees confirmed that they have anti-bullying policies, practices and programmes in place for students, and all but one had had procedures, policies and guidelines on internet safety.
What we need to see more of, based on our work, is greater use of proactive strategies and programmes which move schools towards a culture of zero tolerance for bullying behaviours. Schools that actively create inclusive, respectful environments experience less bullying than schools that simply respond to bullying incidents.
Parents also need to be regularly checking in and talking to their children about how they are doing and the things going on in their lives. If parents have concerns they should be raising these with their children’s school.
Schools have an important part to play in the area of wellbeing, but equally we all need to look closely at ourselves and the messages we are giving our children.
ERO’s recent work on wellbeing provides school leaders and teachers with good ideas and models to support them in promoting wellbeing for their students.
As part of the Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health Project, ERO published six reports about wellbeing for success, and guidance and counselling. These reports provide principals and practitioners with examples of good practice and questions for schools to ask to find out about and promote the wellbeing of their students.
In 2015, ERO published a report about the bullying prevention and response guide.
More recently, we updated our school trustees’ booklet, which includes a section on student wellbeing. It outlines trustees’ role in ensuring student wellbeing, and questions to guide internal evaluation of the effectiveness of wellbeing policies, procedures and practices in place.
Education Review Office Acting Chief Review Officer