The Importance of a Whole-School Approach

A whole-school approach to social and emotional wellbeing is one which “pervade(s) all aspects of the life of a school” (NICE, 2015:2), including:

  •  Whole-school policies and practices that promote positive wellbeing
  • Training and CPD for staff
  • The school culture, ethos and environment
  • Teaching, learning and the curriculum
  • Partnerships with parents, families and the wider school community

It is underpinned by intentional support to develop key social and emotional competencies, including self-awareness, self-regulation and communication skills, amongst others, as well as school-wide policies and practices which support positive wellbeing.

The importance of a whole-school approach is advocated within both government policy (NICE, 2015; Public Health England, 2015) and empirical research, which demonstrates that a whole-school approach can lead to improvements in the school culture, staff wellbeing, pupil behaviour, school attendance and academic attainment (Weare, 2015; Banerjee et al., 2014). 

While specific provision for pupils with identified social, emotional and mental health needs is unquestionably important, a whole-school approach enhances the emotional health of all children and young people. Not only is this vital as both a preventative approach, and to optimise life chances for all pupils (Goodman et al., 2015), but it also creates a positive, supportive environment in which to cultivate those with identified difficulties. NICE (2015) outline two distinct pathways for supporting emotional wellbeing and mental health in schools: targeted support for children and young people with particular needs, and a universal, whole-school approach embedded within the culture of the school.

Critically, a whole-school approach fosters a school culture which holds the wellbeing of the entire school community at its forefront. This school culture and ethos impacts on teacher wellbeing, teaching practice, including classroom management strategies, the teacher-pupil relationship and the culture within individual classrooms, all of which mediate a range of pupil wellbeing and academic outcomes (Jennings and Greenberg, 2009; Banerjee et al., 2014). Public Health England, (2015:2) state that “The physical, social and emotional environment in which staff and students spend a high proportion of every week day has been shown to affect their physical, emotional and mental health and wellbeing, as well as impacting on attainment.”  

Bea Stevenson