Safeguarding student wellbeing in 2021
With the first school term now underway and both teachers and students setting goals for the year ahead, the importance of student wellbeing and a positive learning environment comes into sharper focus.
After all, evidence suggests a strong connection between student wellbeing and learning outcomes and the events of 2020 have made physical and mental health issues more acute in many cases.
With mental stress and other adverse wellbeing issues expected to remain elevated this year, schools face the dual challenge of monitoring and managing wellbeing across the entire student population and at an individual level. The ability to identify and manage wellbeing issues, and provide an outstanding student experience, relies on it.
A baseline for student wellbeing
Looking back at the most common wellbeing issues reported among students during 2020 can be instructive when considering how best to develop supportive strategies in the year ahead.
During 2020, Komodo wellbeing data, based on almost 45,000 surveys completed by thousands of students across Australian and New Zealand independent schools, revealed that one in two students experienced serious mental stress. That’s an alarming figure considering 2021 is likely to present similar, but potentially more manageable, challenges.
Komodo wellbeing data shows that around 1 in 5 (21.1%) reported poor sleep, either in duration or quality, and more likely to be evident among female students. We also identified a strong correlation between mental stress and sleep issues.
Other mental and physical wellbeing issues were also frequently noted, including academic pressure and physical fatigue, reported by 8.5% and 7.6% of students respectively. The latter was more prevalent among male students.
Encouragingly, the data also highlights student resilience during a period of immense disruption. For example, less than 2% said they grappled with online learning despite a reliance on digital tools during the earlier stages of the pandemic. Additionally, less than 4% said they were struggling with poor physical health.
Tackling the challenges
Looking at student’s shared wellbeing challenges in aggregate can reveal emerging issues across the student population, and allow for whole-school strategies to provide support. However, what this data doesn’t show is how to identify and manage often deeply personal issues that students experience.
To help custodians of student wellbeing identify students needing urgent assistance and intervene, the Komodo check-in system was developed. This is where the Komodo platform uses the survey responses to intuitively alert pastoral care leaders, wellbeing or counselling teams to individual students whose wellbeing markers indicate moderate to severe areas of distress.
Across the schools that Komodo partners with, there were hundreds of check-ins completed at an average of five per school per week. Equipped with the insight into the issues, drivers and mindset of these individual students, face-to-face follow ups were conducted to provide support and a plan to help, typically within five days.
In a testament to the urgency in which our partner schools are moving, and their approach to wellbeing management, those interventions resulted in an average increase in student’s overall wellbeing of 20% within five days of the intervention.
That means on average the cycle of identifying the issue, conducting the check-in, one on one follow up to marked wellbeing improvement takes 5 days.
Wellbeing data in action
One of our partner schools provides a strong example of how better understanding and measuring student wellbeing can make a difference to the lives of students and education leaders.
Like many others, this elite independent secondary school with 750 students, has a distinct focus on taking a proactive rather than reactive approach to student wellbeing. The deputy headmaster set out to “measure or gauge wellbeing on a consistent and reasonably accurate basis that gives us full visibility of the underlying issues.”
Using Komodo’s customised surveys that were designed around the wellbeing management programme in place at the school, the Deputy Headmaster sought to combine a quantitative understanding of wellbeing trends across the school with qualitative interactions and discussions with students. “This ensures that we get a well-rounded snapshot of our students' wellbeing in real-time,” the Deputy Headmaster said.
Using the survey data and Komodo dashboard, the school is able to identify students that are struggling with a particular aspect of their mental or physical wellbeing and that might need staff to intervene.
“Wellbeing is important to us as a school. Being the best you can be, helps keep you happy. Measuring wellbeing on a regular basis and having instant, real-time results provide an insight that [our programs] are making a difference to the welfare of our staff and students,” the Deputy Headmaster said.
So, as we progress in 2021 and consider the associated challenges, managing and enhancing student wellbeing is vital. The task of understanding how the school and each student is faring, and having the ability to quickly address issues as they emerge can be a daunting task. Getting it right can be a strong driver behind a positive student experience and in turn, better learning outcomes. That’s good for both schools and students.