The social and emotional wellbeing of students has long been recognised as an issue of importance for Australian schools, with substantial links being drawn between mental health and academic achievement.
Given such links, the key question is how schools can best support optimal social and emotional wellbeing, and ensure their students are supported to live happy and fulfilling lives.
Results from ACER’s Social and Emotional Wellbeing Survey indicate that young people at the highest levels of wellbeing have exceptionally strong positive feelings, pro-social attitudes, emotional awareness and self-acceptance.
In most instances, these students also indicate that they are supported by teachers to discuss their feelings, values and behaviours – indicating that the role of school staff is highly relevant to producing health, happy and resilient students.
To help ensure that student wellbeing is framed positively, schools should consider taking proactive steps to teach students to:
- manage stress and cope with their worries
- describe their feelings and respect other people’s feelings
- solve problems without fighting
- be confident
- be persistent, organised and goal-oriented in schoolwork
- discuss and act on ideas to make their schools better and safer
- make friends, especially with peers who behave well and work hard
Students displaying high levels of wellbeing in the Social and Emotional Wellbeing Survey report that parents and teachers spend time with them talking about life skills – making friends, managing stress, developing confidence and persistence – and emphasise the importance of feeling as though their voice is valued in their own learning process.
Schools may also consider evaluative measures to help gauge the overall social-emotional wellbeing of their student body, which can be used to identify areas of successful practice, as well as areas which may need attention – allowing school communities to improve in their supportive practices.