It’s not just slipping grades that might indicate all is not well with a pupil, according to a recent survey of independent school staff. Deborah Fisher, head of SIMS Independent, explores some of the measures schools put in place to ensure they can spot when pupils’ emotional wellbeing is under fire
At a time when young people’s emotional wellbeing is increasingly under the spotlight, a recent survey of staff in fee-paying schools has highlighted the indicators that schools look out for when it comes to supporting the pastoral side of a child’s education and highlights the importance they place on strengthening home-school links.
The survey, carried out by SIMS Independent, asked school staff about the signs they felt indicated that a child might be struggling emotionally.
Interestingly, they highlighted a spectrum of non-academic markers. Eighty-nine per cent said that a change in a child’s conduct was one of the most important signs that all may not be well with a pupil, 54% said persistent lateness or poor attendance and 31% said changes in friendships or relationships with peers was a key indicator.
If a keen member of the rugby team starts to miss training, or a previously diligent child lacks concentration in class, these could provide vital clues to an underlying issue affecting a pupil’s home or school life. As the survey results suggest, there is a growing awareness in schools of the need to identify and address issues relating to children’s emotional wellbeing.
Friendships were considered an important ingredient to a happy school experience. More than half (51%) of respondents to the survey said they would make a note of a change in a child’s friendship group or relationships with peers.
This might be a situation where a pupil is being left out of conversations by their usual group of friends at break-time, or they suddenly appear reticent to work alongside their peers. Recording and sharing information like this across the school could help staff pick up on an issue early and take steps to resolve it before it has a negative impact on their emotional or learning progress.
The survey also revealed the steps schools take to involve parents when they have concerns.
When asked, 96% of staff said that their schools alert parents to behavioural changes in their child, while 90% would let families know of issues with attendance or punctuality.
Schools are increasingly sharing a broad range of pastoral related information with parents alongside details of their child’s academic progress. Families can access this information online, but text messages or email are also often used to let parents know if their child has been late to lessons three times in a row, have been very quiet in class or are regularly not turning their homework in on time, for example. Knowing this makes it easier for parents to act quickly to investigate the reasons why and offer support.
Many schools encourage parents to let them know about what’s going on at home too. The loss of a beloved pet, the arrival of a new sibling or a change in the family’s circumstances could all have an impact on a child’s emotional wellbeing and in turn, affect their progress in school. This can often be prevented when schools work closely with families to provide the right help where it is needed.
The holistic approach
A rounded education, in its truest sense, is one that educates the whole child and ensures they are both academically and emotionally equipped to navigate their way through the challenges that life can put in front of them, to ultimately succeed.
As our survey underlines, schools place great emphasis on ensuring every one of their pupils benefits from a quality, rounded education.
This article was first published in Independent Leader, 22nd June 2017