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Ask Andy – Blog 27

Wellbeing, a European perspective

It was 12 years ago that I led a Comenius project through the British Council with schools from Belgium, Iceland, Norway and Greece. We learnt a huge amount about each other’s schools and education systems as we followed a theme of “24 hours in the life of a European child.”

We learnt about each other’s education systems, governance of schools, family life, how children are educated on a day-to-day basis and the games that children play in each of the five countries. In fact, we each ended up sending a game played by our children to each of the other countries so that the children could learn to play each game. There was often a back story to each of the games in terms of their origin.

I distinctly remember having a conversation with our Belgian partner school about wellbeing and asking how the school supported their pupils’ wellbeing. Their reply took me aback and still sticks with me to this day.

“What is this wellbeing you talk about?” said my Belgian colleague.

Once I’d explained what it was, she came back with another question which hit home even harder.

“Why do your schools need wellbeing?”

It’s a question I’ve wrestled with, as once we opened the conversation out it transpired that it seemed to be only British schools that had planned for and considered the need for wellbeing.

In essence, 12 years ago, we were beginning to see the need for better mental health support for staff and students in UK schools and were getting better at identifying the causes. Social media, peer pressure, in some cases the breakdown of societal and family structures, combined with high stakes accountability pressures meant that previously “safe” spaces such as a child’s bedroom and schools, no longer seemed quite as safe. For some learners, their worlds must seem incredibly complicated, confusing and stressful.

Back in 2010 European learners will have had the same pressures, except for maybe the high stakes testing pressures as most European education systems had chosen to move away from testing if they had ever adopted it in the first place.

However, the pandemic has changed all of this for those European learners, schools and teachers who had previously not needed a strategy for wellbeing.

Three weeks ago, I was asked to present on wellbeing to the European School Heads conference in Cyprus and the seminar was fully booked; an indication of just how much of a concern wellbeing is. Our stand was inundated with school leaders from all over Europe. School leaders wanting to find out more about how they could support the wellbeing of their staff and learners.

Clearly wellbeing is firmly on the agenda for European schools following the pandemic which has left their staff and learners in need of support and advice.

I think there is a tendency to think its just us in the UK with a tidal wave of concern around mental health and wellbeing but Europe and indeed the rest of the world are wrestling with the same issues.

Where SAS and NAHT Wellness and Protect schools currently have the advantage is that there is expertise waiting to support schools in the UK.

If you are one of those schools and aren’t sure where to start and need a bespoke solution to wellbeing in your school, then please do book a clinic appointment with me and we can create something that is right for your school and supports staff, school leader and learner wellbeing.

You can find out more here: https://schooladvice.co.uk/wellbeing-leadership-clinic/


Ask Andy

If you have questions about wellbeing practice, would like to suggest future content for Andy's blogs or if you are having success with wellbeing culture in your school and would like to share your story, please complete the form below.