A 2021 study of students in the United Kingdom revealed that one in 6 children between the ages of 5 and 16 had a probable mental health problem. In 2017, only one in 9 children had probable mental health problems.
Mental health issues are on the rise among UK residents, and those involved in the education sector are no exception. This means improved pupil, staff, and teacher wellbeing must be top priorities moving forward.
This guide focuses specifically on pupil wellbeing. It breaks down factors that influence it and highlights ways that teachers and other adults can improve pupils’ wellbeing and mental health.
Pupil wellbeing prioritises all aspects of a pupil’s health: Physical, mental, and emotional. When it comes to maintaining and improving pupil wellbeing, the following principles are essential:
A wide range of factors can affect pupil wellbeing, including these:
Issues at home rarely stay in the home. If challenges exist between a child and their family, challenges will likely spread to the pupil’s behaviour and performance at school.
Some family-related factors that affect pupil wellbeing include:
Pupil wellbeing in school, naturally, can also be influenced by the school environment. For example, if a pupil does not get along well with their peers or is being bullied, their behaviour and performance may suffer.
Some other examples of school-related factors that affect schoolchildrens' wellbeing include feeling strained by schoolwork — especially compared to their peers — and feeling that teachers don’t care about them.
Health-related factors may also improve or worsen a pupil’s sense of wellbeing. The following are some examples of health-related factors to keep in mind:
Adults and children alike should care about pupil wellbeing due to the following benefits:
In general, students with higher levels of health and wellbeing perform better in school. When students’ physical, mental, and emotional needs are met, it’s easier for them to focus in class, retain information, and perform well on exams and other assignments.
Prioritising pupil wellbeing can also lead to fewer behaviour problems in the classroom or schoolyard.
When students have all their needs met and know that adults in their lives care about their wellbeing, they may be less inclined to act out in class, get in fights with their pupils, or engage in bullying behaviour.
Students need to have certain skills when they leave school and enter the “real world.” This includes the ability to solve problems, handle stressful situations with ease, and express themselves healthily and productively.
By taking steps to improve student wellbeing, teachers and other adults can help students develop these skills, build resilience and confidence - and achieve success in their post-school life.
There is only so much that pupils — particularly young pupils — can do to control and improve their wellbeing.
They may bear some responsibility for their physical, mental, and emotional health. However, the majority of the responsibility falls on the adults in their lives.
Parents, teachers, and higher-ups in the education system (administrators, headteachers, school governors, etc.) all play a key role in identifying pupil wellbeing issues, as well as creating and executing plans to improve them.
Adults (parents, teachers, administrators, etc.) can take lots of steps to improve student wellbeing, including the following:
To improve their wellbeing, pupils need access to the right tools, resources, and services.
This might include access to counsellors and other mental health professionals when additional support is required, as well as programs that teach them how to resolve conflict appropriately, manage stress, or communicate their needs.
If a school doesn’t already offer such resources to support pupils, providing them is the first step to improving pupil wellbeing. The next step is promoting these services and encouraging pupils to take advantage of them.
When pupils are introduced to mindfulness activities like meditation or yoga from an early age and given regular opportunities to engage in mindfulness exercises, they will likely have an easier time coping with stress and overcoming obstacles, improving emotional wellbeing.
Participating in mindfulness activities can also improve pupils’ physical and mental health. It can minimise symptoms of anxiety and depression, for example, and can also contribute to better sleep quality.
When adults are better trained to spot signs of poor wellbeing and address them appropriately, it’s easier for them to offer advice and guidance to pupils, and help them access resources they need to improve.
It’s important to note, too, that training should be ongoing. One course in pupil wellbeing will likely not yield noteworthy results throughout the entire school.
School staff can improve student wellbeing by organising events that allow them to collaborate with parents and young people alike.
Events like wellness fairs or group nutrition classes provide parents with the tools they need to improve their children’s wellbeing. They also create a safe space for parents to ask questions and gain more information.
Regular check-ins are essential when it comes to assessing pupil wellbeing and determining whether or not pupils are improving.
This might include talking to them directly about how they’re feeling or how things are going at home, as well as looking at other factors like academic performance or behaviour in the classroom.
The Education Act 2011 expands teachers’ authority when it comes to disciplining pupils and promoting good behaviour. It gives teachers the power to search pupils for banned items, issue same-day detentions, and take other steps to make schools feel like safer and more structured places.
The Education Act 2002 was created after the UK adopted the Human Rights Act. This act introduced safeguarding requirements designed to protect children and young people from abuse or neglect.
Resources like Satchel Pulse make it easy to distribute wellbeing surveys and check in with students, parents, and school staff. These surveys allow for fast information collection and simple progress monitoring, both of which help those responsible for student wellbeing to identify patterns and make positive changes.