As the executive summary of the NZCER’s report on it’s national survey of primary and intermediate schools 2016 alludes to, there has been a growing awareness over the last decade that student well-being – encompassing things like the general climate of a school; the prevalence of bullying; and availability of support for students facing challenges – is directly related to achievement and learning.
Given that this awareness has translated to tools like PB4L (Positive Behaviour 4 Learning) that schools and teachers can employ, it’s time to evaluate how successful such measures have been, and how successfully the message on a more holistic approach to school life is getting through.
The key findings of the survey are that while most schools are promoting well-being with a range of well-embedded whole-school practices, there needs to be more action on the issue from policy makers, from government agencies right down to schools themselves.
‘We asked questions about seven school-wide practices that relate to student wellbeing,’ report author Sally Boyd said. ‘Around a quarter of schools had at least five of these well embedded, nearly half had two to four practices well embedded, and the remaining quarter had one or no well embedded practices.’
A key message from those schools that didn’t have well-embedded school-wide practices was that the required focus on numeracy and literacy was detracting from their ability to deliver on recognised best practice.
The majority of principals reported their school had partially or well-embedded systems for identifying groups of students, or individuals, who might need extra wellbeing support. The type of support offered to students varied a lot between schools. Support for working with students with mental health issues was principals’ largest unmet need for external expertise.
School-wide approaches to student behaviour were well embedded in more schools than wellbeing approaches. Over three-quarters of principals thought student behaviour had stayed positive or improved since 2013.
‘Schools where the PB4L programme was embedded across the school also reported well-embedded supports for vulnerable students and other targeted programmes. They also reported more well-embedded approaches to addressing bullying behaviour than other schools,’ Sally Boyd said.
Principals report the most useful support they received to assist with wellbeing or behaviour comes from RTLBs, school nurses and social workers, and the Ministry of Education’s Positive Behaviour for Learning (PB4L) practitioners.
The NZCER survey got responses from 200 principals and 771 teachers in 349 English-medium state and state-integrated primary and intermediate schools. School trustees, and parents and whānau were also surveyed. The survey was conducted from August to September 2016.