The ultimate guide to wellbeing initiatives in schools

Maddie Kilminster - 24 April, 2022

Category : Blog

The ultimate guide to wellbeing initiatives in schools

Now more than ever it’s vital that schools and trusts build initiatives into their strategy to support the wellbeing and mental health of the whole school. Whether this be to help reduce exam stress or as part of the school’s Covid recovery plan.  To help you in shaping your school wellbeing programme, we’ve tracked down

Now more than ever it’s vital that schools and trusts build initiatives into their strategy to support the wellbeing and mental health of the whole school. Whether this be to help reduce exam stress or as part of the school’s Covid recovery plan. 

To help you in shaping your school wellbeing programme, we’ve tracked down seven of the top school wellbeing initiatives you could consider for your school. 

Mental health and wellbeing in schools

80% of young people with existing mental health needs say that the Covid-19 pandemic has made their mental health worse, (according to a Young Minds survey of 2,036 young people), it’s time to put mental health awareness first in schools.

And it’s not just students who have been feeling the impact; according to a report by Education Support, 52% of UK Teachers say their mental health declined during the first stage of the coronavirus pandemic.

7 top wellbeing initiatives for schools

1. Plan a Wellbeing Week

Organising a “Wellbeing Week” at your school is a great way to raise awareness of the importance of wellbeing, and gives students the resources to help them support their own mental health. The Mental Health Foundation has created a free downloadable pack to help you plan the week based around the 5 Ways to Wellbeing: Connect, Get Active, Be Mindful, Keep Learning and Give to Others.

If a whole week doesn’t work for your school, why not hold termly workshops with a focus on mental health and wellbeing.  Developing a partnership with a specialist charity like Young Minds can support with this.

2. Appoint Wellbeing Ambassadors 

Embedding a whole-school culture of wellbeing doesn’t happen overnight, but a good basis to start from is building supportive and respectful relationships between students, teachers and parents. A great way to do this is by appointing student and staff Wellbeing Ambassadors to create a supportive environment where students can talk openly about how they are feeling. Worth-it provides training for Wellbeing Ambassadors to equip them with approaches and strategies to support the wellbeing of their peers as well as their own. 

3. Encourage mental health literacy 

Mental health is often not talked about enough in schools because of the stigma around it. One of the best ways to combat some of the misconceptions around mental health is through education. Stem4 offers free teaching resources for Key Stages 3 and 4 that cover topics such as anxiety, stress and depression to empower students with knowledge about mental health.

4. Create wellbeing lessons and resources

There are lots of ways you can introduce a focus on wellbeing into lessons across the curriculum, especially in Drama, English or Art. These subjects in particular can be useful to process their emotions and experiences through creating personal projects or pieces of work. 

Another great way to spread awareness of wellbeing and mental health around school is through physical or virtual noticeboards, where students can share posters with their wellbeing tips. You’ll also find some great visuals online like this one from the Anna Freud Centre.

5. Mindfulness-based interventions in the classroom

Mindfulness is proven to have a profound impact on our overall wellbeing, with studies showing the positive effects of meditation such as reduced stress and anxiety, improved memory and focus, better relationships and reduced emotional and physical pain. There is now growing awareness of the benefits of practicing mindfulness in schools to help students build attention span, emotional regulation and resilience. Why not introduce a five minute mindfulness session during assemblies, or to begin or round off the school day?

6. Create safe spaces in school

As many schools have found during the pandemic, students are coming to school with difficult experiences that they haven’t been able to process. It’s important to carve out some dedicated time once a week during form or tutor groups for “circle time”, which creates a safe space for students to share what they’re going through. Give each student the opportunity to share either a word or a sentence that describes how they are that day, and create a culture of no judgement from their peers.

7. Gratitude Jar

Gratitude practices are proven to boost our moods. All you need is an empty jar, strips of paper, and pens. As part of your tutor morning routine, have students write down something specific that they’re grateful for on a strip of paper and put it in the jar. Towards the end of the week, ask students to come up and read out items from the jar! 

Promoting staff wellbeing in schools

Wellbeing initiatives are great, but making sure staff are happy and healthy to support them has to come first. Promoting a culture of staff wellbeing is essential to a healthy school. Supporting staff and building trust leads to a happier team, higher performance, better retention and a motivated environment.

Check out why nurturing staff wellbeing is so important at Woodland Academy Trust from CEO, Dan Marrow

Not sure where to start? Here are some ideas:

Staff wellbeing ideas:

  • Monthly wellbeing workshops – When school staff have limited time, carving out time for staff to connect with each other whilst doing something different can really boost their mood. Why not arrange a workshop each term such as cooking or meditation?
  • Designated Mental Health Champions – It can be really effective to give selected staff the ownership over promoting mental health to their colleagues. See Mind for guidance on how to appoint “Mental Health Champions” at your school. If staff are nervous about committing, why not have staff rotate every term?
  • Mental health training for staff – Making sure staff have the background knowledge they need to support mental health at school should be a top priority. Place2b and MHFA England both offer excellent Mental Health First Aid courses for school staff
  • A wellbeing noticeboard – Create a go-to space where staff can check out all the wellbeing initiatives that are going on. This could include a “menu” of events and activities, contacts of who your Mental Health Champions or Wellbeing Ambassadors are, and how to sign up for training 
  • Staff Stars – Consider how you show gratitude for each other at your school. Handing out a “Staff Star” award in your weekly staff meeting can be one whimsical but effective idea. Encourage each winner to nominate the next person each week, and explain why

For more ideas and resources check out the following websites: 

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