We know that the mental health and well-being of our children is critical to success in school and life. Education about mental health and well-being is an integral part of the school curriculum. Schools play a vital role in the promotion of positive mental health in children.
Wellbeing is gaining increased attention across many education systems. This is influenced by the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child which emphasises children’s right to achieve their full potential and participate in decisions that affect them. A rights-based approach to wellbeing is useful as it reminds us that wellbeing matters not simply because it leads to better educational outcomes or can influence young people’s outcomes as adults.
Wellbeing matters in the here and now. It is important in its own right because all students have a right to feel cared for in our school. That said, we also know that students who have higher levels of wellbeing tend to have better cognitive outcomes in school. ESRI research found that ‘children with higher levels of emotional, behavioural, social and school wellbeing had higher levels of academic achievement subsequently (at ages 11, 14, and 16)’.Therefore wellbeing and learning are inextricably connected.
It is vital that those who seek to promote high academic standards and those who seek to promote mental, emotional and social health realise that they are on the same side, and that social and affective education can support academic learning, not simply take time away from it. There is overwhelming evidence that students learn more effectively, including their academic subjects, if they are happy in their work, believe in themselves, and feel school is supporting them.
There is also a large body of international research showing an association between the quality of relationships between teachers and students and a number of student outcomes, including socio-emotional wellbeing, engagement in schoolwork, feeling a sense of belonging in school, levels of disciplinary problems, and academic achievement.