Tips for Teachers: 23. Pupil Wellbeing and Character Education

Jan 9, 2024 | Blogs

Tips for Teachers: 23. Pupil Wellbeing and Character Education

Jan 9, 2024 | Blogs

If a school wants to improve the academic performance of its pupils, it should, first and foremost, focus on their happiness and wellbeing. The simple fact is that pupils with higher levels of wellbeing generally perform better at school academically.’ (Gutman and Vorhaus, 2012)

The ‘Impact of pupil behaviour and wellbeing on educational outcomes’ report from the DfE in 2012 had the following key findings:

  • Children with higher levels of emotional, behavioural, social, and school wellbeing, on average, have higher levels of academic achievement and are more engaged in school, both concurrently and in later years.
  • Children with better emotional wellbeing make more progress in primary school and are more engaged in secondary school.
  • Children with better attention skills experience greater progress across the four key stages of schooling in England. Those who are engaged in less troublesome behaviour also make more progress and are more engaged in secondary school.
  • Children who are bullied are less engaged in primary school, whereas those with positive friendships are more engaged in secondary school.
  • As children move through the school system, emotional and behavioural wellbeing become more important in explaining school engagement, while demographic and other characteristics become less important.
  • Relationships between emotional, behavioural, social, and school wellbeing and later educational outcomes are generally similar for children and adolescents, regardless of their gender and parents’ educational level.

Wellbeing is all about health and happiness and should never be a tick-box exercise for schools neither should it be compartmentalised from other lessons or the school’s provision for personal development and the wider curriculum. To ensure we meet the wellbeing needs of our pupils (and staff) it should be embedded into the curriculum and the ethos and wider life of the school.

In 2019 the DfE produced a non-statutory framework guidance document on Character Education which includes Six Character benchmarks:

  1. What kind of school are we?
  • How clearly do we articulate the kind of education we aspire to provide?
  • How do we ensure that all members of the school community (e.g. staff, pupils, parents/carers, governing body) understand and share our aims?
  • How effectively do we create a sense of pride, belonging and identity in our school?
  1. What are our expectations towards each other?
  • Are we clear on the importance of discipline and good behaviour in school life? How do we promote this understanding?
  • How well do we promote consideration and respect towards others (pupils and adults), good manners and courtesy?
  • How well do we promote a range of positive character traits among pupils?
  1. How well do our curriculum and teaching develop resilience and confidence?
  • Is our curriculum ambitious for our pupils? Does it teach knowledge and cultural capital which will open doors and give them confidence in wider society?
  • Is our curriculum logically organised and sequenced, including within subjects, and taught using effective pedagogy, so pupils gain a strong sense of progress and grow in confidence?
  1. How good is our co-curriculum?
  • Does it cover a wide range across artistic, creative, performance, sporting, debating, challenge, team and individual etc. so all pupils can both discover new interests and develop existing ones?
  • Do we make use of or promote local, national or international programmes or organisations? (e.g. uniformed organisations, Duke of Edinburgh, National Citizen Service etc.)
  • Is provision of high quality and does it challenge pupils and build expertise? Is participation sustained over time?
  • Are there ample opportunities for pupils to compete, perform etc., and is success acknowledged and celebrated?
  1. How well do we promote the value of volunteering and service to others?
  • Are age-appropriate expectations of volunteering and service to others clearly established?
  • Are opportunities varied, meaningful, high-quality and sustained over time?
  • Do volunteering and service opportunities contribute to breaking down social barriers? Are they effective in making pupils civic-minded and ready to contribute to society?
  1. How do we ensure that all our pupils benefit equally from what is on offer?
  • Do we understand and reduce barriers to participation (e.g. cost, timing, location, logistics, confidence, parental support etc.)?
  • Do we enable young people from all backgrounds to feel as if they belong and are valued?
  • Is our provision, including our co-curricular provision, appropriately tailored both to suit and to challenge the pupils we serve?

‘Wellbeing in its simplest form, is the absence of disease, but in the reality of twenty-first century life, it is much more complex than this. Society thrives, or falls, by the quality of the relationships between its members…

As our children grow, they develop attachments, and it is the care and sensitivity, feeling and emotion that the subject of their attachment shows in meeting the child’s needs that ultimately regulate and control the connectedness that shapes the child’s ability to form and maintain positive relationships in the future…

Children have a right to wellbeing and to grow up equipped with a range of skills and tools that will enable them to navigate their way through life and to support not only their emotional and mental health, but also their physical, social and economic wellbeing. They also have a right to develop the life skills and qualities that will enable them to support others – in other words, how to become and be a good citizen.’ (Andrew Cowley, The Wellbeing Curriculum, 2021.)

This blog was written by Bretta Townend-Jowitt, Education Consultant and Trainer. 

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