As a result of this week’s announcement about children in England returning to school on the 8th March, there have been a number of conversations in the media around pupil catch up and lost learning, with the government announcing a further £420 million in funding for schools, along with the £300 million publicised in January.
The British Psychological Society however, have said that this ‘catch up’ narrative is unhelpful and putting unnecessary pressure on children and young people. Dr Dan O’Hare, the co-chair of the BPS’s Division of Educational and Child Psychology said:
“It’s important to celebrate the progress, learning and development children have made in the last year and ensure that they feel proud of what they’ve achieved so that they can build upon their strengths and continue their key learning moving forward…The voice of children and young people has been noticeably missing from [the] debate and it’s essential that they are consulted and their thoughts and feelings considered as part of the decision-making process about the return to school.”
But how do you capture the voice of the pupil?
In the return to school, when pupil wellbeing will be more important than ever, what can teachers do to build a picture of how their pupils are feeling and identify those who might need further support?
The Westborough School in Westcliff-on-sea started to use Wellbeing and Attitudes to Learning: Survey and Strategies last September with all children in KS2.
“The wellbeing of the children is so important to us as a school and particularly in the present climate – there are more children than ever who are struggling”, says the Pupil Premium, Reading and Attendance lead, who is also head of Years 5 and 6.
“Sometimes we can identify children who are struggling through their behaviours, but we would like to know who we can support before they start to show struggling behaviours.”
Wellbeing and Attitudes to Learning provides schools with an online pupil survey, offering children a safe space to communicate how they are feeling about their learning and school. The survey is designed to help teachers see where their pupils are at in relation to their positivity, self-efficacy, motivation and resilience and persistence, and gives them ideas and strategies for improving these areas of pupil wellbeing. Research shows that children with low levels of wellbeing struggle to deal with school-based sources of stress (Scrimin et al.) and there is a need to integrate approaches to improving pupils’ attainment with attention to pupils’ mental health.
Once pupils have taken the survey, teachers can generate group and individual reports - “the teachers were given the results for their class and we were looking at themes and patterns within classes/year bands as a school, as well as identifying children who gave an indication of struggling that we had not noticed.”
Schools then have access to a bank of strategies so they can start to action positive change and support pupils to be their best selves. Through taking the survey, pupils can communicate how they are feeling and the strategies and resources in the tool can then help schools optimise their wellbeing provision. “Explicitly teaching strategies for resilience etc. will hopefully give the children the language they need to communicate when they’re not feeling as positive, as well as how they might be struggling and how they can succeed.”
Learn more about how Wellbeing and Attitudes to Learning could help in the return to school here.
Thanks to Sarah Minty, Senior Commissioning Editor at RS Assessment from Hodder Education, for this blog.