Supporting young adults with cancer
By Ceinwen Giles,
In the last few years, society has been through turbulent times, with the wellbeing of our school communities significantly affected. Yet the research tells us that we function better when we feel safe, nurtured and connected. In short, children learn, grow, and flourish in environments that support relationships.
"Schools need and want to prioritise their community’s wellbeing needs, now more than ever." - Robert Brooks, Fellow
This year, the NHS reported that 1 in 6 young people now have a probable mental health disorder, compared with 1 in 9 young people in 2017. Mental health and wellbeing are interrelated: we know that healthy wellbeing actively protects us against mental illness and fosters recovery. We also know that wellbeing is something we can all learn to maintain, giving us protection against present and future adversity.
My Churchill Fellowship report described seven ingredients of success derived from inspiring practices that I observed in Canadian school districts. They are:
I garnered support for my Churchill Fellowship findings at regional conferences in Cardiff and Glasgow. As a result, funding was secured to pilot a small team of multi-disciplinary psychologists to develop an approach and support schools in implementing a Whole School Approach (WSA) for wellbeing.
This team trained clusters of schools throughout Gwent in South Wales, a region that spans five local authorities, using a Canadian action research approach called the Spiral of Inquiry. We then provided a series of consultation sessions with participating schools to help them embed the spiral process in their planning.
The schools we worked with told us how our work had benefited the whole school community, from school staff to pupils to parents. So in March 2022 we evaluated our pilot by asking schools what difference our work provided. One school said, “The process got our wellbeing team to really dig a little deeper, do a bit more research into finding out from the children what was important to them... that’s what really helped us.” Another explained that it helped them to realise that “Every member of staff had to take ownership for it to be a whole school [approach]. Every child and staff member saw the value in ensuring that everything was embedded in every classroom.”
I am staggered by what we have achieved in just three years, despite the disruption caused by the pandemic. I owe a deep debt of gratitude to the Churchill Fellowship for the opportunity to travel, learn and share a fresh perspective on this vital issue.
Schools need and want to prioritise their community’s wellbeing needs, now more than ever. The Welsh Government recently published their framework for emotional well-being in schools making it a statutory obligation for schools to engage in a WSA. So we have developed a practical, evidence-informed model that speaks to Welsh Government values and the priorities of individual school communities. I would now like to take our project to the next level. We would like to offer 27 new schools the opportunity to engage in a year-long Spiral of Inquiry as a cohort, meeting every half term to develop their unique approach. We hope that using a cohort model will link schools as a professional learning community in a sustainable way that allows us to extend our reach throughout Wales.
For information on our Fellowships in this theme, see "Our current themes”.
The views and opinions expressed by any Fellow are those of the Fellow and not of the Churchill Fellowship or its partners, which have no responsibility or liability for any part of them.
By Ceinwen Giles,
By Allison Sykes,
By Kieron Kirkland,