Well-being: ideas for healthier, inclusive and happier schools

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Schools have an active role to play in providing and ensuring social, physical and emotional well-being for students.

Children and young people spend a good part of their time in school, which is, therefore, a key place for shaping general well-being, including its social, physical and emotional aspects. Students’ health and well-being contributes to their ability to benefit from good quality teaching and to achieve their full academic potential. In this article, we take a look at European and national initiatives that promote the importance of well-being in schools.

Tackling bullying in a holistic way – ENABLE 

The European Network Against Bullying in Learning and Leisure Environments (ENABLE) was designed to tackle and reduce bullying in a holistic way, but it proved to have broader positive effects on the social and emotional well-being of young people and on the climate in classrooms.

The central focus was on building resilience in young people by combining social and emotional learning (SEL) with peer support strategies. The programme was targeted at young people aged 11 to 14, a period during which children learn more about themselves, test their autonomy and understand their emotions. The student pre-survey showed that one in three did not know that emotions influence reactions and one in four reported no affinity towards helping behaviours.

The project was funded by the Daphne Programme of the European Union and ran from 2014 to 2016. It included actions such as a series of webinars and the ENABLE Hackathon, during which students got to design an app or any creative tool that could be used against bullying.

The ENABLE methodology was integrated in over 100 schools, reaching over 15,000 students in six countries. The project has produced versatile resources for teachers, teacher trainers, students and parents (available in Dutch, Greek, Croatian, French, English and Danish).

 For more information read the project summary and the research review report

Schools for Health in Europe – SHE Network

All work and no play might lead to students achieving high grades and delivering excellent results. But, what about their physical betterment? 

Schools for Health in Europe is a network of 45 member countries in the European region, and its focus is on making school health promotion an integral part of policy development in European education.

They define a health-promoting school as a school that takes care of the health and well-being of all students and staff. To this end it implements a structured and systematic plan, involving seven important components: healthy school policies, school physical environment, school social environment, individual health skills and action competencies, community links, and health services.

The SHE network encourages research and creates resonance regarding good practices on school health promotion. Among their resources notable are the three SHE network factsheets, which, analyse the state of health promoting schools, give scientific evidence that proves the importance of health promotion in Schools, and provide detailed information on networks and partnerships in school health promotion.

Teachers might also find very helpful the manuals and tools, which provide valuable information on healthy eating, physical activity, and childhood obesity prevention. The publications are available in English, Russian and Slovenian. 

Training students’ attention – Mindfulness in Schools Project

Would you like your students to feel calmer, happier and more fulfilled; to manage stress and anxiety; or to improve their concentration and focus in classes, exams, and tests, on the sports field, when playing games and listening to others?

Mindfulness has shown its positive effect on all these areas and is already used actively in a number of schools. It is a practice that helps build self-awareness in the present moment, acknowledging and accepting one’s feelings and thoughts as well as physical sensations. Put briefly, “mindfulness is being alive and knowing it.” 

MiSP (Mindfulness in Schools Project) is a charity based in the UK, dedicated to promoting young people’s resilience and well-being through mindfulness in schools. The MiSP has trained already over 3200 educators and school staff to deliver mindfulness in schools. 

A study found that the children who participated in the mindfulness programme (N=522) reported fewer depressive symptoms, lower stress, and greater well-being.

Discover more information on the website, e.g. how to bring mindfulness to your school, research papers, and interactive maps to locate teachers who have expertise in mindfulness.