The promotion of well being is central to our mission to enable children and young people to achieve their full potential so that they will be able to contribute to our community and country’s social, cultural and economic development. As a society, we face a wide range of challenges that impact on our well being. Promoting the well being of our children is a shared community responsibility and is everybody’s business. Schools can play a key role in developing and enhancing young people’s well being. Consequently, here in Bennekerry N.S. we place a high priority on well being promotion and have targeted this area as part of our Self-Evaluation process. Implementation of this process will help our pupils to realise their potential, to be resilient in dealing with the normal stresses of their lives, to take care of their physical well being and to have a sense of purpose, connection and belonging to their wider community, including their school community. Current research indicates that what is most beneficial in the promotion of well being in education is to adopt a preventative, whole school approach that is multi-component, and evidence informed. There is overwhelming evidence that children and young people learn more effectively if they are happy in their work, believe in themselves, and feel supported.
Having piloted the Weaving Well Being Programme in 2017, and having received very positive feedback, we introduced this programme into all classes from 2nd-6th in the school year 2018-19. Weaving Well-Being is the first Irish designed positive mental health programme of its kind which aims to enhance well-being in children aged from 8-12 years within the framework of the SPHE curriculum. It consists of 10 lessons for each class level and is grounded in evidence-based interventions from the rapidly expanding field of Positive Psychology. Positive Psychology is the science of well-being.
It is underpinned by the concept that a state of well-being is not simply the absence of the negative, but the presence of the positive. The Weaving Well-Being programme gives children the opportunity to weave positivity into their daily lives through a range of activities in a variety of areas such as resilience skills (including mindfulness) and developing self-efficacy through empowering beliefs.
We strongly believe in the saying “mens sana in corpore sano”, a Latin phrase, usually translated as "a healthy mind in a healthy body". The phrase is widely used in sporting and educational contexts to express the theory that physical exercise is an important or essential part of mental and psychological well-being. Thus, when we were drawing up our School Improvement Plan for well-being, we placed great emphasis on the promotion of physical exercise and healthy eating.
In 2018 and again in 2019, we signed up to the Food Dudes initiative. Food Dudes is an award-winning curriculum-linked evidence-based healthy eating programme which was developed to encourage children to eat more fresh fruit and vegetables. It is based on repeated tastings of fresh fruit and vegetables, rewards and positive role models. The Food Dudes Healthy Eating Programme brings about significant change and improvement in children's eating habits. The programme effectively increases provision and consumption of fruits and vegetables at home and in school, both in the short- and long-term. Specific lessons on healthy eating and nutrition are also taught throughout the school.
As a school, we took on the Active Flag challenge. While our school is well recognised for its sporting successes, we were concerned that while many of our pupils are very active, others engaged in little or no physical exercise. Our efforts to improve this situation are well documented in the Sports and Active Flag sections of this website. Active homework was also encouraged through use of the Super Trooper booklets.
Another area we identified as one for for improvement was that of becoming resilient learners. Ms. Cleary and Ms. Griffin attended seminars given by Jackie Beere and John Beasley. Jackie is a leading educational trainer, a former Headteacher, an NLP Master Practitioner and Clarity Coach. She is also a successful author of many books for teachers and school leaders. She was awarded the OBE for services to education in 2002 and started her own company in 2006. John works alongside Jackie and offers similar training programmes and expertise.
Ms. Cleary and Ms. Griffin were so enthused by their engagement with Jackie and John that they set about giving training and guidance in this area to the other members of staff. All were most enthusiastic and so we began a concentrated season of the promotion of “Growth Mindsets”. Pupils were encouraged to be more open in their thinking about their abilities and to move from a fixed to a growth mindset.
Examples of these principles are
In our school we say…
“Is this my best work?” instead of “This will do”
“I can learn from my mistakes and improve” instead of “I failed”
“This may take some time and effort” instead of “This is too hard”
“What can I do to improve?” instead of “I am no good at this”
“I will try a different strategy” instead of “I just can’t do this”
“I enjoy a challenge” instead of “I’ll stick with what I know”
“How can we learn from one another?” instead of “He/she is smarter than me”
“My effort and attitude are everything” instead of “My abilities determine everything”
The pupils are also encouraged to remember the “power of Yet” - that even though they may not be able to do something right now it simply means they are not able to do it yet but may well be able to do so in the future. They are also encouraged to never give up. The pupils learned poems and songs to help reinforce the message and finally were treated to a performance entitled “Ned’s Growth Mindset Mission” which emphasized the messages once again.
We are now concentrating on the promotion of good manners. Using good manners helps pupils show respect and consideration for adults and one another. It ensures that all feel valued and we have noticed that those using good manners regularly feel good about themselves too.