3.1. Well-being of learners
Whole-school approaches involve attention to the overall school climate. A safe and caring learning environment supports positive relationships for and between teachers, school staff and learners. For instance, physical settings that are safe, welcoming and stimulating, as well as sports and regular physical activities for all learners are important. Schools may invest in conflict management within common school spaces to promote a culture of dialogue and diversity. These learning and contextual conditions help create a positive climate and a sense of belonging for all learners.
All learners – but particularly those with learning difficulties or disabilities, or who face personal, social or emotional challenges – need easy access to teachers and other professionals who can support their educational and personal development. Counselling and mentoring may provide career guidance, while cultural and extra-curricular activities are important to broaden their social and personal skills.
A wide range of support and counselling services that are based on a comprehensive view of the individual may also include social and family-related services. Consideration should be given to the impact of critical life events (including traumatic events) on the personal development of a young person. This should include emotional and psychological support, to be provided in the school or in connection with local agencies and services. Such support should focus on building the learner’s self-confidence, trust and motivation, enabling the young person to think more positively about his/her future. Peer coaches or mentors may also be effective in providing socio-emotional support.
Teachers and other school staff should be given opportunities for professional development so that they may help learners who need additional emotional support. They should know and have access to channels of communication in order to share personal information about learners and get access to additional support for those learners. The emotional well-being of staff should also be supported.
Surveys and evaluations of the school climate should be used deliberately and systematically and should involve all the staff and learners in the school. Learners should be involved in analysis and planning.
Schools should also have anti-bullying strategies in place. These strategies should address all forms of bullying, including cyberbullying, in order to ensure a safe environment and effectively respond to violations of children's rights. There is extensive research available on effective methods of tackling bullying and victimisation in schools. At the same time, measures for combating degrading treatment and bullying should be based on the school’s own circumstances.
Research evidence: Sweden
This evaluation of measures to prevent and remedy bullying draws on qualitative and quantitative data from 39 schools. It follows eight anti-bullying programmes: the Farsta Method, Friends, Lions Quest, the Olweus Programme, SET (Social Emotional Training), School Comet, School Mediation, and Second Step.
No school used just one programme, but rather a combination of measures and programmes. They found that different measures had different effects for boys and girls, and for social or physical bullying. No single programme had a dramatic positive effect. Rather, schools were more successful when they took a systematic approach using a combination of measures. The Evaluation reports on school experiences with the different programmes and the extent to which they contributed to a reduction in bullying.
Swedish National Agency for Education, Evaluation of anti-bullying methods (2011)
Find out more:
8th European Forum on the Rights of the Child, The Role of Child Protection Systems in Protecting Children from Bullying and Cyberbullying, Brussels, 17 and 18 December, 2013.
Farrington, D.P. and Ttofi, M., School-Based Programs to Reduce Bullying and Victimization: A Systematic Review, The Campbell Collaboration, Oslo, 2010.
Nouwen, W., Clycq, N., Braspenningx, M., and Timmerman, C., Cross-case Analyses of School-based Prevention and Intervention Measures, Project Paper 6, RESl.eu Project, Centre for Migration and Intercultural Studies, University of Antwerp, 2016.
Swedish National Agency for Education, Evaluation of anti-bullying methods, Report 353, Skolverket, Stockholm, 2011.
Unicef, Rights Respecting Schools Award online platform
Anderson, A. R., Christenson, S. L., Sinclair, M. F., and Lehr, C. A., ‘Check and Connect: The importance of relationships for promoting engagement with school’, Journal of School Psychology, Vol. 42, 2004, pp. 95–113.
Downes, P., ‘The neglected shadow: Some European perspectives on emotional supports for early school leaving prevention’, International Journal of Emotional Education, Vol. 3 No. 2, 2011, pp. 3-39.
Gresham, F. M., ‘Evidence-based social skills interventions: Empirical foundations for instructional approaches’, In Shinn, M.R. and Walker, H.M. (Eds.), Interventions for achievement and behavior problems in a three-tier model including RTI., National Association of School Psychologists, Bethesda, MD, 2010, pp. 337-362.
Scheel, M., Madabhushi, S., and Backhaus, A., ‘The academic motivation of at-risk students in a counseling prevention programme’, The Counseling Psychologist, Vol. 37, 2009, pp. 1147-1178.
Sinclair, M. F., Christenson, S. L., and Thurlow, M. L., ‘Promoting school completion of urban secondary youth with emotional or behavioral disabilities’, Exceptional Children, Vol. 71 No. 4, 2005, pp. 465–482.
Skinner, E.A. and Pitzer, J.R., ‘Developmental Dynamics of Student Engagement, Coping, and Everyday Resilience’, in Christenson, S.L., Reschly, A.L., Wylie, C. (Eds.)
Handbook of Research on Student Engagement, New York, Springer, 2012, pp. 21-44.
White, S. W., and Kelly, F. D., ‘The school counselor’s role in school dropout prevention’,. Journal of Counseling & Development, Vol, 88, 2010, pp. 227–235.