Best paths identified to school wellbeing and academic outcomes

Best paths identified to school wellbeing and academic outcomes

An effective wellbeing approach in schools creates the climate students need to thrive and achieve their academic potential.

Students with a positive sense of self and belonging are better placed to engage in their learning.

But with a host of well-intentioned wellbeing approaches available, how do schools know which is the most effective?

As the representative body for almost 500 non-government schools in this state, the Association of Independent Schools of NSW (AISNSW) commissioned a review of literature from the past decade to identify the evidence-based, whole-school wellbeing approaches that best foster safe, supportive, and respectful environments.

The AISNSW Wellbeing Literature Review – the first of its kind - was conducted by the Telethon Kids Institute in WA and led by its Program Head, Development and Education, Professor Donna Cross.

The reviewers examined the available literature and asked two questions:

1. How effective are whole-school student wellbeing approaches in improving student  wellbeing outcomes and academic performance?

2. What are the implementable elements and/or characteristics of effective wholeschool approaches to student wellbeing?

The review identified six key factors which support student wellbeing:

1. Adopting a whole-school approach  

2. Focusing on interventions with evidence of effectiveness 

3. Establishing a dedicated team to drive implementation   

4. Preparing the school for implementation    

5. Providing meaningful engagement and support with families, and  

6. Creating meaningful opportunities for student voice and engagement. 

The review gives the education sector the clearest picture yet of what effective wholeschool wellbeing looks like, and how schools can implement evidence-based strategies to support their students. 

It also affirms the whole-school wellbeing approaches that the AISNSW Wellbeing team have supported our member schools to introduce - in particular, using research and evidence-based planning tools, taking a strengths-based approach and embedding social and emotional learning pedagogy through wellbeing and curriculum.

The review also highlighted the importance of schools engaging families on wellbeing and giving students a voice. Another point made clear by the review was that schools which explicitly taught social and emotional skills achieved a higher level of overall wellbeing among students. 

Importantly, the review highlighted the integral role of leadership teams to implementing effective wellbeing interventions and approaches. Wellbeing strategies need time and a whole-school focus to succeed, making it essential to invest in building staff capacity. 

Student wellbeing is about having the skills to make positive and healthy choices to support learning and achievement, delivered in a safe, supportive school climate.

All schools need to be aware of the most effective wellbeing strategies and AISNSW is therefore making available the review’s findings with the broader education community in NSW, nationally and internationally.

Dr Geoff Newcombe AM is the Chief Executive of the AISNSW, which represents almost 500 schools teaching more than 214,000 students, or one in six NSW students.