St John’s Grammar was a finalist in the category Best Student Wellbeing Program in Schools at this year’s Australian Education Awards Ceremony recently held in Sydney. While we did not take out the winners prize, the School can rightfully be proud of being one of a handful of schools nationally to receive an Excellence Award. Our success was on the back of our comprehensive approach to wellbeing rather than a single targeted specialist initiative.
I thought I would pull apart 10 main features of our offering, so you can all share in the potency and reach of what our School does for young people in keeping them well.
1. Uniquely St John’s Wellbeing Framework
We have a uniquely St John’s whole school Wellbeing Framework, developed by our School in collaboration with external experts and after comprehensive reviews of wellbeing literature. The framework provides us with shared language about wellbeing, and is the ‘lighthouse’ that guides all decisions about wellbeing initiatives and actions, whether that be in curriculum, within our pastoral programs, or within our wider culture of wellbeing at St John’s.
2. Specialist Wellbeing Classes
Our approach has a strong proactive and preventative focus, with dedicated wellbeing specialist classes in the Junior School (Friendology), and Year 7, 8, 9 and 10. Our curriculum is not simply the adoption of an externally created program, it is the culmination of our research, our experiences with wellbeing and a deep awareness of the unique needs of our students at St John’s. It is responsive to issues facing our students and is progressive, evidence-based and holds inclusivity at its core. Wellbeing holds a prime place on the timetable across the School – it’s not an add on.
3. Wellbeing Newsletter & Transition Programs
We provide a Wellbeing newsletter using our six Wellbeing Pillars to educate students about ways to optimise their wellbeing, which is accompanied by a dedicated online Wellbeing Canvas page. We also have a range of successful transition programs to support new students to the School, such as Bright Beginnings in the Junior School and a buddy program across both campuses.
4. Inclusive House & Co-Curricular Offering
The House and extra-curricular and co-curricular offerings are broad and includes things such as Yarn Club, Friday Morning Yoga, meditation and a LGBTIQA+ group, enabling all students a place to find like-minded peers and a sense of purpose and connection. This preventative approach is heavily supported by a highly responsive action to students with mental health challenges. We have a Circle of Care approach where we embrace the premise that it takes a village to raise a child.
5. Specialist Wellbeing-Focused Team
The Head of House Team, Head of School, School Counsellors, Leader of Student Wellbeing, Wellbeing Assistants and Leader of Exceptional Learning work alongside our classroom teachers to wrap around the social, emotional and intellectual needs of our students. We triage students to ensure we are best able to provide a truly personalised approach to managing their wellbeing. We use an online check-in platform to track all student wellbeing and this is followed up by the Wellbeing Assistants, who are trained in psychology/social work. The Wellbeing Assistants provide a safe space for students to regulate and they run targeted focus groups in response to patterns in student concerns, such as anxiety, stress management, culture-shock and self-regulation.
6. Age-and-Stage Appropriate Junior School Program
At Junior School level, students are engaged in the Keeping Safe: Child Protection Curriculum and the Friendology program, taught by Wellbeing Specialist teachers. Additionally, wellbeing concepts are further strengthened through our CARES (Courtesy, Awareness, Responsibility, Empathy and Service) approach and important pastoral programs like our Bright Beginnings program that enable successful transitions each year.
7. Dedicated Respectful Relationships Task Group
Students, staff, professional partners, parents, leadership and board members have been involvement in the Respectful Relationships Task Group, driving school-wide actions targeting respectful relationships to promote emotional and physical safety within our community. Part of these actions were to identify emerging issues and to develop safe passage for young people to report their concerns. We have also established an in-house psychology and learning support consultancy called the WellNest Centre which is an excellent available additional resource for our families.
8. Wellbeing Ambassadors Part of Student Leadership Committee
Student Wellbeing Ambassadors (Junior and Secondary) are part of the Student Leadership Committee (SLC) that support student voice and agency in driving wellbeing policy in the School. Our Wellbeing Ambassadors lead a Student Wellbeing Team, where students meet to share ideas and lead initiatives across all 3 campuses. The AWARE club (social justice) and LGBTIQA+ club provide avenues for strong student voice regarding issues and concerns of our students and the opportunity for action. These committees of student leadership have been focussing on building student allies for our diverse-thinking students and to take us from a School that goes beyond tolerance and acceptance to one that celebrates diversity.
9. Data-Led Approach
Student wellbeing data through the SA Wellbeing and Engagement Collection and weekly Pulse (Educator Impact) check-ins helps guide decision making and support. Additionally, we have a student feedback survey that allows students to provide specific feedback about their learning and School experiences, including their Health and Wellbeing learning.
10. Meaningful Success Measures
Measuring School success, more-so the potency and impact of wellbeing initiatives, has been a challenge. St John’s has developed a dashboard of success, a collection of data that help Executive teams and the Board in determining true and more meaningful measures of our growth. Wellbeing data is collected year-round and has helped us develop some key ideas about the impact not of one or two components of our offering, but the collective gains or losses in the pastoral domain.
It is an impressive catalogue of actions and commitments that extends into the staffroom and the family home. All the hard work over a number of years has certainly put St John’s on the wellbeing map and recognised on the national stage.