Tim Wilbur, Chair of the upcoming Supporting Student Wellbeing in Independent Schools conference gives his view on the subject and why Gabbitas Education are partnering this event.
Why is student wellbeing in independent schools so important?
Wellbeing is important to all people of all ages everywhere. In some respects, all belief systems suggest ‘frailty’ is the human condition and unfortunately for too many, it is. In very simplistic terms, the teaching of wellbeing in schools is the teaching of ‘positivity’. This is broken down into either experiential or taught modules dealing with life-lessons appropriate for age and stage. The independent sector takes wellbeing very seriously because we pride ourself on providing a fully rounded education covering academic, pastoral and wider extra-curricular provision. However, it is more than this; independent education was amongst the first to recognise that the modern world was increasing the pressures on the mental wellbeing of its students. Schools realised that wellbeing needed to be delivered to everyone and not simply to those who were perceived to need it most. There is little doubt that independent education also found itself in the best place to deliver these programmes because of its ability to dedicate staff time and resource to the issue. Many saw wellbeing as a vital and welcome corollary to their existing and mandatory PSHE programmes.
It is also worth stating that independent education is in the vanguard of teacher wellbeing. It is axiomatic that those working in independent education – from the Head through to non-teaching staff – have an understanding of their role to play in the wellbeing of the young people in their charge. This is only possible if they are in tune with their own wellbeing.
What are the unique challenges faced by students in independent schools?
Although it is tempting to say ‘none’ because all young people may face difficult issues irrespective of their educational provision, there are some specifics identified by independent schools themselves. Like it or not, those attending independent schools have a better chance of being the shapers of society and thus the responsibility for this becomes a key issue. There are many young people who find this sense of advantage daunting. The unique challenges faced by independent schools may be to convey a sense of responsibility given the often advantage many of their young people bring to the table.
The first publicised wellbeing courses began in Australian independent schools. They sought to reduce the perceived negatives and pressures on young people associated with so-called ‘modern living’. They saw it as incumbent on education to try to interpret these pressures by removing the hype and prejudice often generated by the media. As a result, wellbeing courses sought to give young people a balanced and purposeful role in both the present and the future. The courses created were much more than a tick box, topic by topic, approach to enlightening students with key concepts; they developed into a holistic approach to create a rounded individual within a wider community. They are an attempt to build the mental, physical, emotional and possibly spiritual wellbeing of an individual, all the way through to having concerns for the state of the planet. It could be argued that schools have always sought to do this in many other guises from their inceptions.
Why is Gabbitas Education partnering this event?
Gabbitas Education has a very rich and long pedigree of championing excellence in education. The company has always attempted to be a ‘thought leader’ on the important issues that affect the present and the future of the sector, ensuring these developments inform the products and services we provide. As an organisation we have departments that support students, families, educators and schools; the full range of academic, pastoral and wider educational concerns. We have always put the needs of each and every child at the centre of our offer and thus recognise that wellbeing is crucial to success.
Register for the conference at Optimus Education: Supporting Student Wellbeing. All bookings made through Gabbitas Education enjoy a £30 discount with the code GABBITAS30.