Our headteachers and senior leaders have tough choices to make at the moment. Trying to plan strategically in schools of late has been like knitting with fog – with every waking second being spent on supporting pupils, parents and staff as they navigate the challenges of post lockdown schooling.
The tough choices that are looming are on balancing wellbeing and learning and teaching. The patterns of what I am observing across schools are many young people who are unsettled. The impact of disrupted transitions from primary to secondary manifesting itself in developmental delay or a lack of ability to focus and learn. We can see in some young people anxiety or other behaviours as a result of the stop-start nature of learning and the impacts for some of living with uncertainty and in difficult situations.
Many of the S4 pupils I am speaking to are acknowledging a struggle with focus and a lack of urgency or priority towards coursework. The normal routines and sprints for coursework gone by the wayside and replaced by a frenzy of evidence gathering. S5 and S6 pupils are also under pressure – and all of this leading to a frenzied atmosphere.
The choices that need to be made though is a clear one. Learning and teaching focused on the attainment agenda goes hand in hand with wellbeing. Sure, If we ignore the learning & teaching agenda next session we risk the progress that schools have made on school improvement. We must focus on both equally. With complete parity. But we also need to recognise that our current approach to supporting pupil wellbeing is not adequate. We need a different; multi-faceted approach. We need to address the fact that many of our young people have so little faith in the future. Their sense of predictability and safety is under threat – and we have the power to restore that.
Prevention is the key to safeguard staff and pupil wellbeing
Many of the young people I am speaking to are struggling with their identity. They are struggling with the meaning of “school” and “learning”. For many though, this last year has meant that they equate learning with survival – safeguarding the essentials.]A huge part of that survival process is about meaningful relationships with caring supportive adults as well as keeping up with friends and peer groups.
Helping staff regroup and focus is key – and setting the expectations for the improvement agenda for the year ahead is crucial. Timing the messaging around this requires tact and sensitivity and needs to take cognisance of the sheer exhaustion of our teaching staff. Teacher wellbeing must move much further up the agenda.
What is evident though, is the current approaches to both pupil and societal wellbeing need to be fundamentally reconsidered. Counselling support is not the panacea of dealing with lockdown and the mental wellbeing of our young people. Curriculum and programmes are not also of themselves impactful in helping our young people develop their resilience.
What is needed is a cohesive approach to school-wide wellbeing focused on positive mental health. Using programmes that help our young people recognise that they all have well-being within them. Programmes such s iheart (suitable for upper primary and secondary) really do offer a different approach to mental wellbeing. Properly training peer mentors and allowing young people to experience coaching combined with input on mindset.
Join our webinar Wed 26th May, 7 PM
I have developed a strategic framework to support this and am ready to share my thinking with you on this so you can start to take action and plan now for the next session.
Join our free webinar on Wednesday, May 26th at 7 pm to hear from John Paul on the benefits of a whole school approach to wellbeing underpinned by coaching & resilience work.