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Promoting Resilience, Belonging and Safety in our Students (K-12)

We live in a world where the pace of change is unrelenting, and the challenges faced by our students are increasingly complex.


Creating learning environments that nurture resilience, belonging and safety are critical. When we first launched our Wellbeing for Learning Survey in 2022, it was launched into the edu-sphere with accompanying insights from Pivot's 2022 Evidence Brief on Student Wellbeing. Now we are (well and truly!) in 2024, we thought it timely to reflect on the enduring messages that explain why these traits are so important for preparing K-12 students for the future.


The Cornerstones of Student Wellbeing

Pivot's research, encompassing 52 schools in Australia and New Zealand, revealed five key recommendations for educators and school leaders:

  • Identifying students early: Observing, noticing, flagging and consulting with your wellbeing team is critical. At times, a single educator might be the only witness to a student who is struggling silently. Acting promptly can enable timely assistance, steering students back toward positive wellbeing and reconnecting with learning.

  • Supporting students in identifying trusted adults paves the way for accessible guidance and mentorship, weaving a known and reliable ‘safety net’ for students to connect to in their school community.

  • Developing students' awareness and strategies around protective factors like sleep and structured approaches to schoolwork correlates with elevated general wellbeing. Bringing these important topics into your wellbeing curriculum is essential; you’ll be supporting students in developing adaptive skills for lifelong resilience.

  • Targeting specific cohorts in need of additional support. Research indicates there are notable disparities in wellbeing across gender lines and socio-educational backgrounds. Make this a priority for your school community, with your deep knowledge of your school context.

  • Monitoring wellbeing using evidence-based tools may well precipitate positive impacts on student welfare. Survey instruments, such as Pivot’s Wellbeing for Learning Survey, could provide students with a much-needed ‘voice’ to indicate how they are tracking.


These recommendations underscore the necessity of creating supportive wellbeing infrastructures within your school.


The Resilience Factor

Resilience, often recognised as the ability to bounce back from adversity, is essential. Resilience research shows that it comprises dynamic elements—such as a growth mindset, optimism, and self-advocacy—that are malleable and receptive to school-level interventions.


Pivot's evidence brief underscores resilience's profound influence on student academic performance. Schools that have tracked resilience measures have leveraged the insights to implement interventions that help cultivate resilience. Students, in turn, have shown enhanced academic attainment and reduced stress.


The Essence of Belonging

Belonging pertains to that intrinsic connection students feel to their peers and school community. Its implications are far-reaching—students who feel they belong are likely to thrive both academically and socially. In contrast, those with low school belonging may be more susceptible to a host of future behavioural and mental health issues.

Schools that actively promote a culture of belonging often report heightened academic performance among students and a decrease in risky behaviours. Trusting and supportive relationships, both peer-related and adult-oriented, serve as pillars supporting students' emotional and intellectual development.


Cultivating Safe Spaces

School safety is foundational for student wellbeing, directly impacting students' academic performance and general wellbeing. A safe school is identified as one in which students feel and are safe from harassment, aggression, unwanted physical contact, bullying, and comes in many forms from physical safety (bodily hurt, injury), to online safety (cyberbullying) and emotional safety (deliberately feeling left out etc.).

It is critical for school leaders to engage in ongoing monitoring of the safety of their school’s environment. By implementing tools like Wellbeing For Learning and actively identifying and implementing strategies for change, schools can better recognise issues and safeguard the wellbeing and safety of all individuals within the school community.


Case Studies and Real-World Evidence

Real-world examples from Pivot’s research ‘bring to life’ the theories regarding the promotion of resilience, belonging and safety:

  • A F-12 school's mentorship program significantly elevated student engagement and instilled a robust sense of belonging.

  • Another school's integration of mindfulness practices created improved resilience and emotional well-being among students.

  • An anecdotal teacher’s narrative highlighted how an emphasis on building class-level resilience not only supported students in achieving superior academic results but also equipped them with skills and dispositions essential for lifelong success.


Final words

Let’s endeavour to support every student with a school environment that champions resilience, fosters a palpable sense of belonging, and provides a safe and secure space for learning and growing. By embedding evidence-based practices and interventions to support wellbeing, we will support our students in navigating the complexities of life with confidence and composure.


References

For a deeper dive into the development of student resilience and belonging, reference the insightful details provided in Pivot's 2022 Wellbeing for Learning Evidence Brief on Student Wellbeing. The innovative Wellbeing for Learning tool also serves as an indispensable resource in gauging and augmenting student welfare within today's educational landscape.


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