Wellbeing at Ballinamore Community School
Wellbeing Co-ordinator: A. Garvey
The reformed junior cycle has placed wellbeing at it’s core, as illustrated on the graphic below. There is overwhelming evidence to prove that students learn more effectively if they are happy in their work, believe in themselves and feel that school is supporting them. Furthermore, ESRI research found that children with higher levels of emotional, behavioural, social and school wellbeing had higher levels of academic achievement subsequently at the ages of 11, 14 and 16.
Developing a Whole School Approach to Wellbeing
The Department of Education and Skills and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment are asking all schools to develop a whole school approach to wellbeing at junior cycle. To assist schools in this they have prescribed a 7-step process which requires that a wellbeing committee be formed and that consultations are then undertaken to gather the opinions of all members of the school community. Once the information has been gathered, the wellbeing team must collate it and devise a plan for a wellbeing programme that will meet the expressed needs of the students, parents and staff. The plan is to be reviewed every two years to ensure that it continues to meet the needs of the community it serves.
The plan for wellbeing at junior cycle will be developed to reflect the 6 indicators of wellbeing shown below and it will also address our practices in relation to our policies and planning procedures, curriculum, culture and relationships.
6 Indicators of Wellbeing
4 Aspects of Wellbeing
From August 2017 a minimum of 300 hours must be made available to wellbeing related learning across the three years of junior cycle. However, by August 2020 schools will be obliged to dedicate a minimum of 400 hours to wellbeing. Given the level of priority that the Department of Education are giving to wellbeing as an area of learning, it is vitally important that we ensure that the time devoted to it is well planned and facilitated to ensure that our students gain the maximum benefit from these classes.
The Consultation Process
In December 2017 and January 2018 the whole school community were invited to participate in the development of our whole school approach to wellbeing. Questionnaires were made available online for the staff, students and parents to complete. Focus groups were also organised to ensure that everyone who wanted to voice their opinions in relation to junior cycle wellbeing was heard. There was one focus group for the staff, one for the parents and as a large number of students wanted to participate there were two for students.
Summary of findings from the Wellbeing Consultation Process
In December 2017 and January 2018 all 1st-5th year students, their parents/guardians and teachers were invited to complete questionnaires and participate in focus groups. Both the questionnaires and the focus groups were designed to generate feedback on all six indicators of wellbeing. At the end of the questionnaires and the focus groups participants were asked to identify the indicators and areas of learning that they wanted prioritised when our whole school approach to wellbeing is being planned.
The table below shows the priorities identified by the various groups.
Prioritisation of Indicators of Wellbeing
PFG = Parent Focus Group PQ = Parent Questionnaire
SFG = Student Focus Group (There were two) SQ = Student Questionnaire
TFG = Teacher Focus Group
Numbers relate to how important each indicator was rated (1 = Most important & 2 = Second most important).
Indicators of Wellbeing
First Meeting of the Wellbeing Team:
The Wellbeing Team met on Thursday 8th March at 4pm to begin the process of planning for wellbeing. To ensure a whole school approach the plan must address all four aspects of wellbeing.
At this meeting we discussed the findings of the consultation process and agreed that our primary aims would be in relation to the indicators aware and responsible.
The findings of the parent questionnaire, student questionnaire, teacher focus group and one of the two student focus groups ranked aware as the indicator that they wanted to prioritise. The second student focus group ranked aware as their second preference for priority.
We discussed the various responses given and comments made in relation to the aware indicator. Most of the comments were concerned with the students’ understanding of what helps them to learn and how they can improve. We agreed that we would aim to introduce formative instructional and assessment practices as a means of addressing this issue.
The student questionnaire, teacher focus group and one of the student focus groups ranked responsible as their second preference for priority.
Once again, we discussed the various responses given and comments made in relation to the responsible indicator. On this occasion we discovered that most of the concerns reported were in relation to students knowing when their safety was at risk online. It was agreed that we would aim to create a greater awareness of the dangers associated with the internet and social media among our school community.
Where do we go from here?
Planning for junior cycle wellbeing will be divided into a variety of strands. The teachers of SPHE, CSPE, PE and Wellbeing will be invited to come together to plan a curriculum for first and second year students that will address all the concerns raised in the consultation process. At the meeting on the 8th March we agreed that while our primary focus would be on the aware and responsible indicators, that we would not forget about the concerns raised in relation the resilient, connected and active indicators. The subjects of SPHE, CSPE, PE and Wellbeing are all well placed to address these concerns. Other subject areas which may have valuable contributions to make will also be encouraged to do so. This subject planning will take place in March and early April.
Planning for our primary aims will commence on Tuesday 20th March. At this meeting the wellbeing team will be asked to devise plans according to the template below:
Implementing our Action Plans
As we approach the end of our second term of incorporating the Junior Cycle Wellbeing Programme into our existing curriculum, we would like to share our progress to date. As you will be aware the whole school consultation process started in December 2017 and concluded in February 2018. The findings from all of the questionnaires and focus groups were collated and presented to the wellbeing team, priorities were identified and action plans drawn up to address the expressed needs of our school community.
To create a whole school approach to wellbeing all subject areas and all aspects of the school have been incorporated into the action plans. The wellbeing subject departments of SPHE, CSPE, PE and Guidance all created plans that specifically targeted the indicators selected for prioritisation, while also meeting the subject specifications developed by the Department of Education and Skills and the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment.
The indicator which was agreed upon by students, parents and staff as our main priority was Aware. More specifically, the wellbeing team were told that students needed more focus to be placed upon gaining a deeper understanding of how they learn and how they can improve their grades. In response, we devised a four-prong approach, targeting the culture, curriculum, relationships and policies and planning procedures within the school to address this request.
We as a school have committed to embedding formative instructional and assessment practices into our teaching. These practices allow teachers and students to work together to determine what our students know and to identify possible gaps in their understanding, so that instruction and feedback can be provided that actively engages students in their learning. In support of this initiative the school has invested in a continuous professional development training programme that has been made available to all teachers on staff. In addition to this, all subject teachers are providing formative feedback to students on their work and to parents in the bi-annual reports and at parent-teacher meetings. Teachers are also incorporating a range of subject-specific study skills into their teaching to assist students in the development of a range of revision techniques. At the end of term three we will have our first Formative Feedback Friday. This will be an opportunity for teachers and students in first and second year to discuss each student’s learning over the course of the year. Feedback will focus on identifying each student’s strengths and identifying future learning targets so that students gain a deeper understanding of how they can maintain, or if necessary improve upon their performance in their various subject areas.
A lot of work has also been done this year in relation to promoting a greater awareness of the necessity to stay safe online among our junior cycle students. The Think B4 U Click programme, developed by Webwise has been incorporated into our wellbeing classes. In support of the work going on in classrooms in this regard, an information evening was organised for parents and guardians. School Liaison Officer, Garda Hugh Brady spoke to parents about the potential dangers of cyberspace and gave excellent advice about what parents and guardians can do to keep their children safe online. Garda Brady also provided talks to our students on this topic. He was highly complimentary of our incorporation of an online safety programme into our curriculum and told us that we were the only school that he was aware of that were providing a much needed programme on this most important aspect of 21st century personal safety.
Reviewing and Renewing our Junior Cycle Wellbeing Programme
In accordance with the Guidelines provided, we will review our wellbeing programme every two years. This will involve consulting the students, the parents/guardians and the staff to ensure that our provision continues to evolve to meet the changing needs of our school community.
The consultation process began in October 2019. All parents/guardians, students and staff were asked to complete surveys so that we could find out what indicators we were doing well in promoting, and what indicators our community wanted us to focus on from 2020-2022.
BCS Wellbeing Team 2020
Ashling Garvey – Co-ordinator
We had planned to host a series of focus groups in the spring of 2020, however, the Covid-19 induced school closures, forced us to proceed to the planning stage based mainly on the data gathered through the surveys.
The collated results ranked the indicators for prioritisation in the following order:
While the responsible indicator remained in second place, the focus had shifted. In 2017-2018 we were told that there was a need to educate students about how to stay safe online. In the 2019-2020 consultation we were told that the focus needed to move away from knowing when their safety was at risk online and towards a module that would teach students how they could promote their own wellbeing and that of others.
The School Self-Evaluation process has been monitoring our Junior Cycle Wellbeing Programme. We were happy note that the indicator which had been identified as first for prioritisation in the 2017-2018 consultation had been demoted to third place. Aware had been replaced in first place by resilient.
All available members of the wellbeing team convened to discuss the results and to agree a plan that would address the expressed needs of our school community. As schools were not permitted to reopen for the remainder of the 2019-2020 academic year, the finalised plan was communicated to the wider staff in August 2020.
Responding to Covid-19
On our return to school it quickly became apparent that we would be living with Covid-19 for some time to come and so we decided to consult the students, their parents/guardians and the staff to ensure that the data that had been gathered in the Autumn and Winter of 2019-2020 (before the arrival of Covid-19), and the programme that had been designed based on that feedback was still relevant to the current wellbeing needs of our students.
On this occasion two surveys were issued. One was devised to be completed by the students and their parents/guardians together, the other one was issued to the staff.
The results were as follows:
It was noted that the active indicator had moved from sixth into third place for the first time. The information provided on the questionnaires told us that that was in response to the time lost from the many and varied sporting pursuits that our students would normally have engaged with throughout the school year and indeed the summer holidays, as a direct result of the need to ensure social distancing. The information was shared with the whole staff and all efforts to increase activity will be undertaken, in accordance with public health advice.
Once all the data had been collated, the top two priorities identified for prioritisation remained resilient and responsible. The only change from Spring to Autumn 2020 was that the focus for the responsible indicator was now to be shifted to educating students about how to stay safe and to protect not only their own wellbeing, but that of others in relation to Covid-19.
In the Spring of 2021, the NCCA (National Council for Curriculum and Assessment) and the DES (Department of Education and Science) published a revised set of guidelines for Junior Cycle Wellbeing. They can be accessed here.