10 ways to improve wellbeing in Schools

Councillors from the Education Scrutiny Performance Panel visited Dylan Thomas Community Comprehensive School in July and met with the Headteacher, Chair of Governors and other staff at the school.

Councillors chose to speak to this school because they had heard about the good practice the school provides in relation to the wellbeing of pupils, with the aim of and resulting in, improving pupil attainment.  The Panel also understand that Wellbeing is a key aspect of the New Curriculum and thought that it would be timely to get a good understanding of the key issues by seeing work being done on the ground with pupils.

Councillors heard about the context and why wellbeing is so key for Dylan Thomas School.  They were told that it is a Secondary School with in excess of 529 pupils, including three Specialist Teaching Facilities (STF) on site.   70% of the pupils live in the 20% most deprived areas of Wales so there is a high level of poverty here. 54% of the pupils receive Free School Meals.  Over 60% of pupils have a reading age significantly below their chronological age on entry to Year 7.  60% of pupils are identified as having Additional Learning Needs. There is also increasing Mental Health complaints and high mobility rate and in year transfers.

The Panel heard that the focus of the school, and of staff, is on raising the expectations of pupils and improving their aspirations; that there are many talented children at the school, but, unfortunately, some children do not always see themselves as good enough and underestimate their abilities.  The Acting Headteacher explained that the barriers and challenges the school face could not be used as an excuse for poor standards, telling Councillors about some examples of children who have excelled at the school.  Councillors agreed that high aspirations for all pupils is key.

Councillors found a number of learning points from their visit that they wished to share:

Wellbeing in schools can be improved by ensuring:

  1. Wellbeing is at the heart of what they do
  2. They constantly remind pupils of expectations and raise their aspirations
  3. They constantly build and improve relationships at the school, with parents and the local community
  4. They focus on positivity rather than punitive sanctions: a positive approach to pupil attainment and behaviour (examples including capture and promote positives, praise, reward, meet and greet at school gates, learning walks rather than behaviour room)
  5. Schools are proud of their pupils and they develop a sense of community
  6. They recognise that one size does not fit all, individualise when and where possible
  7. They work closely with other agencies like Evolve, Youth Offending Service, Education Other Than At School services, Princes Trust etc.
  8. They train staff in how to improve behaviour and avoid exclusions including Pivotal Behaviour Approaches.
  9. They have a strong challenging but supportive governing body
  10. They are sharing and seeking best practice in order to continually improve.

The Panel would like to congratulate everyone at the school and the governing body for the hard work and commitment to their improvement journey. 

Councillors thanked the young people who gave them a tour of the school, saying that they make great Ambassadors.

The Panel complimented the school for developing a culture where pupils feel valued and wished the school the very best for the future. 

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