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How to promote health and wellbeing in schools

How to promote health and wellbeing in schools

What is health and wellbeing in school?

Health and wellbeing usually refers to whole-person wellness: physical health, mental and emotional health. This is not least because the relationship between all three is important: physical impacting mental and vice versa.

In school, health and wellbeing takes on added importance as it plays a vital role in the early parts of children’s development and setting them up for success. Pupils are in the classroom an average of 190 days per year - depending on whether they go to state or private schools - so nurturing positive wellbeing must be carried out within educational spaces.  As such, health and wellbeing in schools seeks to support physical, mental and emotional health. This can involve physical activity and physical education, developing emotional intelligence and communication skills as well as mindfulness and creativity. These are delivered through a variety of formats, from free play and physical activities to formal lessons and one-on-one sessions.   

Like pupils, education professionals must also be supported. This means workload management, training, mental health support, stress management, personal development and other initiatives. This better enables our teachers to support our children.

The current state of health and wellbeing in students and staff

Currently, one in six school-aged children has a mental health problem, rising quickly from one in nine in 2017. Because mental health and wellbeing are linked, it comes as no surprise that the wellbeing of children in England and the UK remains relatively low compared to other countries. School staff are also affected, with 50% of all education professionals feeling that their wellbeing and mental health has declined amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.

Because we can see that students and staff are experiencing a decline in their mental health and wellbeing, there is a greater need to unearth what the causes of this are and how to promote both good mental and physical health in schools.

Why is it important to promote health and wellbeing in schools?

Students with behavioural difficulties are more likely to be excluded from school and university students are more likely to leave their course due to declining mental health.

Staff are experiencing the same negative effects. With their workloads rising, they are becoming worried about the state of their wellbeing and increasingly questioning whether they want to remain working within the education sector.

With schools being an important building block in the development of children, the question of whether students are being properly supported is an important one. With teaching staff being students’ first port of call and the intense demands and pressures of working within education, it’s important to give them adequate support and make their working environment stable and positive.

Improving student and staff retention is strongly linked to individual wellbeing and mental health. Because students and education professionals spend the majority of their time within schools and universities, their health and wellbeing can be greatly improved through the design and functionality of educational spaces.

How can schools promote health and wellbeing

1. Mental health and wellness training

With the rise in student mental health issues, teachers have felt the need to further support children and young people with their emotional wellbeing. Many education professionals don’t feel like they have the proper training to do so and with workloads rising and inadequate support, they struggle to cope.

Educational facilities can provide training courses to teachers to combat this. Making a place for specialised mental health professionals within school environments is essential. However, all teachers should feel like they have sufficient training and support to assist their students in their mental health and wellbeing.

Similarly, appointing mental health student and staff ambassadors will spread awareness and create a direct connection between students and school staff.

2. Implement mental health, wellbeing and resilience into the curriculum

Students must be aware of the importance of mental health and wellbeing on their quality of life. Improving the mental health literacy of students will provide key individual awareness to specific issues. This can be done through specialised lessons on relationship education as well as mental health in school curriculums.

3. Promote healthy eating

Healthy eating is directly connected to physical and mental wellbeing from better productivity and energy-levels to improved self-esteem.

Eating well is a must for both students and staff. By introducing healthy eating modules into the curriculum, creating cooking clubs and offering healthy meals on school grounds and university campuses, healthy eating can become intuitive for students and staff.

4. Encourage students and staff to stay hydrated

Drinking enough water every day is vital for both mental and physical health. Water makes up 60% of the human body and is responsible for a variety of essential bodily functions, from regulating body temperature to delivering oxygen throughout the body.

When you don’t drink enough water, you start to become dehydrated. This leads to physical symptoms such as dizziness, lightheadedness, dry mouth, headaches and fatigue. Mental symptoms such as brain fog also occur, leaving you with a lack of focus, productivity and motivation.

Providing safe and easy access to filtered drinking water is essential to ensuring students and staff feel their best. Water fountains, bottle refill stations and drinking water solutions for staff kitchen areas are essential to support adequate hydration levels. The touch-free range from Zip Water boasts a drinking water system for every location, allowing for instant access to filtered water while ensuring safe and hygienic conditions.

Zip HydroTap Touch Free Wave

5. Advocate for physical activity

Physical activity has an extremely positive impact on the body and mind. Staying active increases mental alertness which improves concentration and productivity. It also leads to increased energy levels, better mood and reduced stress. Exercise also releases mood-affecting chemicals - endorphins, dopamine and serotonin - which reduce symptoms of depression and improve wellbeing.

Regular physical activity can be encouraged by schools through active travel schemes that promote sustainable and healthy methods of transport. Walking, cycling or scooting to school, university and work makes a significant impact on energy levels and mood.

Alongside this, providing access to discounted gym memberships and classes for students and staff can further promote daily physical activity.

6. Opportunities for student and staff feedback

Students and educational professionals are the building blocks of school and university spaces. It’s necessary that they are given the opportunity to participate in schoolwide decisions that impact their wellbeing.

Introducing 1:1 student and staff consultations, carrying out opinion surveys, electing student and teacher representatives and giving feedback on teaching and learning methods are just a few of the ways that schools and universities can receive feedback and make improvements to the way things are done.

7. Improve physical environment of schools

Improving the layout and functionality of learning environments is now more important than ever amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Creating functional spaces that allow for students and teachers to be productive and safe can be done through layout revisions and technological advancements. 

Introducing multipurpose rooms with moveable furniture that can be used for a variety of student and staff needs is an effective way to better make use of space and quickly reintroduce students back to classrooms.

UNIT Fabrications social distancing moveable furniture

Similarly, communal facilities such as canteens, cafeterias and staff refreshment areas must be reworked to suit the reintroduction of high levels of students and staff. Creating safe and sanitary environments can be assisted by touchless innovations. By implementing contactless sensors, touch points can be reduced in elevators, hallways and even school fountains, drinking water stations and staff refreshment facilities. 

The touch-free range from Zip Water offers drinking water solutions for all educational spaces and ensures safe access to clean, filtered drinking water due to contactless dispensing and sterilisation technology.

Zip HydroTap Touch Free Wave

While students require support in their physical and mental health, educational facilitators also require school aid in reducing workloads and feeling adequately trained. Schools need to support the wellbeing of their students and staff to improve happiness, motivation and performance. By rethinking the functional layouts of schools and universities as well as what goes on within them in terms of values and initiatives, the current state of health and wellbeing in schools can improve.

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