The project was conducted by a team from the Manchester Institute of Education at the University of Manchester. An open science model was adopted supporting a transparent reporting of the independent evaluation, meaning the plans and final report are accessible at this link: https://doi.org/10.17605/OSF.IO/SWM25.
The research team comprised:
Dr. Alexandra HennesseyCo-Principal Investigator
Dr. Sarah MacQuarrieCo-Principal Investigator
Dr. Kirsty Pert Lead Research Assistant
Prof. Garry SquiresCo-Investigator
Dr. Charlotte BagnallCo-Investigator
Dr. Lily VerityResearch Assistant
Carla MasonResearch Assistant
Mumine OzturkResearch Assistant
Smriti GuptaResearch Assistant
Kathryn Mills-WebbResearch Assistant
Fionnuala MottishawResearch Assistant
There is growing emphasis within education settings to promote wellbeing and whole school approaches are a recognised avenue for achieving this. Pupils supported by teachers who exhibit protective factors (such as confidence and resilience) are shown to achieve better educational outcomes. However, staff wellbeing is often overlooked in research, despite recognition that and for sustainable whole-school approaches such knowledge may be vital; suggesting connections between teacher and pupil wellbeing requires investigation.
Well Schools is a whole school approach that places as much emphasis on wellbeing as it does on academic performance. Well Schools understands that children and young people are more effective learners when they are happy and well, and that they must take care of their staff and their pupils’ wellbeing to create a culture that allows everyone to reach their potential. Well Schools therefore focuses on supporting the wellbeing of school staff, senior leaders and pupils to improve education outcomes.
The main objective of this research was to explore and understand the factors that affect successful implementation of Well Schools and the perceived impact on schools, teachers, and pupils who are part of the Well Schools community. In addition, this research showcases examples of good practice for supporting wellbeing through a whole school approach.
10 case study schools were recruited having been identified for their good practice and that they represented diversity in setting type, location and school demographics. A mixed-method approach was used. Data was collected via interviews (n = 16) with Well School leads and teachers to capture the process of implementation from prior practice to current progress and future sustainability. Well School leads completed bespoke surveys (n = 17) to determine aspects of practice fueling the implementation of Well Schools. Specific strategies used in each school as part of their Well Schools approach illustrate, both quantitatively and qualitatively, implementation progress, quality, fidelity, and adaptations to Well School guidance. A series of quantitative surveys measured both teacher (n = 83) and pupil (n = 418) wellbeing supporting comparisons with national data and established benchmarks.
Case Study schools reported positive experiences of becoming a Well School and managing being a Well School. This included:
Positive experiences when reflecting on school level support systems and Well Schools engagement.
Emphasis given to making time for Well Schools as well as provision of training that relates to Well Schools. Schools report mostly positive accounts of the support and engagement across their school regarding Well Schools.
Engagement with online resources revealed the most mixed responses from schools, with some schools engaging with online resources and others reporting reduced engagement with such resources.
The impact of Well Schools was being monitored in most schools, this includes the use of wellbeing surveys across staff and pupils.
When exploring the implementation of Well Schools it was clear whole school engagement was key to developing a ‘Well Culture’ and that the senior leadership team must be the driving force behind Well Schools. The Well Schools approach sympathised with the physical and emotional health provision already being implemented in many schools. The benefits of the Well Schools approach offered an “umbrella” framework that allows the principles of Well Schools to be organised, monitored, and evaluated and other provision to be structured and monitored within the framework. The integration of Well Schools into an existing school ethos is facilitated by the feasibility and suitability of the framework.
Advocating staff wellbeing, staff recognition and allowing staff to have autonomy over staff wellbeing in their schools can lead to positive outcomes. For example, this included, better staff attendance, job satisfaction, and staff retention were singled out as areas with recognisable improvements. Staff wellbeing was supported through a combination of approaches and was led top down by senior leadership:
Provision of a Staff Wellbeing Charter that allows schools to monitor and show their commitment to Staff Wellbeing.
Many schools set up designated staff wellbeing leads.
A wellbeing culture is driven by the senior leadership team to ensure workload is acceptable and manageable, offer staff mental health support and recognition of staff achievement.
Case study schools reported their pupils are happier and healthier and this has had a positive impact on pupils’ engagement with learning and academic performance. Physical health and literacy were the leading focus across all school types with regards to pupil health and wellbeing. Schools adopted many pupil-centred approaches to physical health and literacy, and mental health, and the development of life skills including:
Educating pupils on the importance of physical activity, good sleep, hygiene and maintaining a balanced diet.
Using sports and mobility to support mental and physical health.
Offering a diverse range of sports and extra curricula activities and recognising the importance of making physical activity accessible for pupils’ individual needs.
Recognising the benefits of outdoor learning.
Offering pupils psycho-social development through a variety of whole school, universal and targeted provision, and programmes to support the development of skills and strategies to manage emotional wellbeing and mental health.
The ‘well prepared’ and ‘well equipped’ pillars were inextricably linked. Equipping pupils with socio-emotional literacy occurred alongside focusing on their mental and physical health – schools often described these approaches hand-in-hand, recognising a practical and theoretical overlap in strategies to both prepare and equip pupils simultaneously.