Congratulations to all communities for all the hard work and effort to enable students to continue their learning. As Lutheran education we are very much concerned about the whole person. In particular we would like to mention student wellbeing. We are sure your community has talked about it and may already have strategic plans in place, but it would be remiss of us if we didn’t at least mention it and provide you with some questions to consider.
The most obvious are those students who were at risk prior to the impact of COVID-19 and are now at home in isolation. How are they being cared for? How are you getting a true picture of what the world is like for them?
COVID-19 has had significant impact on a number of families. Students who were formerly not at risk may have had their world turned upside down which now puts them at risk. Don’t assume that if the work is being handed up that everything is OK. For the students who have not returned to school, why is that? Research shows that five to six weeks of school avoidance is a critical time in the ability to re-engage students with active attendance. Which member of staff has a positive relationship with the student and might be able to get a true picture of what the world is like for that student? It has been said numerous times that schools are the safest place for many students. How might you encourage the student to return to school? How might you make your school an inviting place to be? Working together with parents is crucial.
Senior students who were anticipating on achieving highly to gain access to the university course of their choice (or similar) may assume that this may no longer be a reality. They may feel like their dreams, and in turn their future, have been ruined. This can have a significant impact on a teenager’s mind. How are these students being followed up? Who has the best chance of connecting with them to discover if there are any concerns, and what support might be offered?
With a number of students being supervised with online learning (either at home or at school), students with individual learning plans may not be receiving the support they are accustomed to. This in turn can lead to anxiety and a gap in learning. How are these students being supported? Does your school currently have sufficient resources to support students in the current context, or is this an area that needs addressing further?
The social aspect of school is significant for most students. Whether it be a sporting team, a choir or ensemble, a chess club or craft group, a sustainability or service group, students gain a sense of belonging and purpose. With the stop to extracurricular activities, many students will experience a sense of loss and purpose. With certain rites of passage being cancelled (e.g. formals, sporting and cultural events), the sense of loss is deeper. Given the restrictions, how can you build a sense of community so that each student can experience a sense of belonging to a group and a sense of purpose?
With restrictions for parents being on site, there is possibility for a breakdown of relationship and sense of community. How might you maintain a connection with parents which goes beyond the dissemination of information?
Psychologist Tim Dansie has kindly provided us with a Student Well Being Profile to help our schools ascertain a clearer picture of the wellbeing of our student. Schools are free to adapt it for their own context. Any student who puts a score in under 5 could be checked on with priority given to the students who score low in lots of areas.
I gratefully acknowledge the work of Stuart Traeger in shaping this reflection on student wellbeing.