In recent years there has been an increasing focus on wellbeing in schools. This is partly due to the recognition of the importance of good mental health in young people, and partly because of the high-profile suicides of some young people who have been struggling at school.

As a result, many schools are now looking for ways to support the mental health of their students. One approach that is gaining popularity is values based education.

Values based education is an approach to education that focuses on developing the whole person, rather than just academic achievement. It recognises that young people need to develop emotionally as well as academically in order to be successful in life.

There are many different models of values based education, but at its heart is the belief that young people should be taught about universal values such as kindness, respect and responsibility. These values are then fostered through all aspects of school life, from the curriculum to the way staff interact with students.

Why Values Based Education?

There are many reasons why values based education is seen as a valuable approach to supporting student wellbeing.

Firstly, it helps young people to develop a sense of who they are and what is important to them. This can be particularly helpful for those who are struggling to find their identity or who feel like they don’t fit in at school.

Secondly, it gives young people the opportunity to explore their emotions and learn how to manage them in a healthy way. This can be beneficial for those who struggle with managing their emotions, or who tend to bottle them up.

Thirdly, values based education promotes positive relationships. It does this by teaching young people how to resolve conflict and build positive relationships with others. This can be helpful for those who find it difficult to make friends or who have trouble dealing with bullying.

Values and School Wellbeing

Having shared values and vision across your educational setting will help you to embed a culture of wellbeing in your school or college and help protect the mental health of staff and students. There’s been a lot of uncertainty over last few years, due to COVID-19 and now the cost of living crisis and school funding issues. This may be negatively impacting the mental health of both students and staff on top of other pressures they are under on a day-to-day basis.

What are values?

Values are important frames of reference linked to our sense of self and therefore shape our behaviours. Values are linked to the goals we set,how attractive or not we find these goals and how we go about achieving them. Our values can guide us towards our goals.

Values are freely chosen. The more we align our goals to our values, the more likely we are to achieve them. Think about whether the school values you have are attractive, whether they are easy for people to align themselves to – the easier this is then the easier buy-in will be when you need to implement change. For example, if one of your school values is wellbeing for all and everyone has aligned themselves to this then you won’t come across as much resistance when developing a culture of wellbeing in your school or college.

Why are values so important for wellbeing?

As well as overcoming resistance to change within an organisation, values are important at an individual level. Those whose personal values are consistent with commonly shared values of a caring profession experience lower burnout and higher personal wellbeing.  Teaching is a profession notorious for high levels of stress and burnout. Developing a shared culture and values for school wellbeing can help lower levels of stress and reduce risk of burnout. Staff who feel valued and enjoy high levels of wellbeing are in a stronger position to support children and young people with their learning and developing their wellbeing.

Is wellbeing visible in your school or college?

Can you see wellbeing around the place? Can you feel it? We’re not talking about a poster stuck on a toilet door, but inspiring messages from pupils and students themselves, the school community looking after one another: school values that are lived and felt, not just laminated. Does your school recognise strengths within individuals to help them feel more valued? Do staff and students feel valued, understood, empowered, and trusted? These are all important questions to reflect on to support the overall development of your whole school culture of wellbeing.

How can you develop values in your school or college?

What is your compelling vision for your school or college mental health and wellbeing? Think about who can help you set and work towards goals that align with your vision and values. Listen to your students as well as your staff and other stakeholders – strategic use of student and pupil voice can be beneficial in driving change. Find the right team of people and, together, consider your existing school values. As a team, do you need to revisit these values to align with your vision?

How we help schools develop values-based education for wellbeing

At Worth-it we’re passionate about helping children and young people, and those who work with them to flourish. Gain practical ideas for developing values-based education in your school by accessing our discovery workshop as part of our Wellbeing Club content library on school values for wellbeing and inclusion by Hannah Wilson.

We have developed the SMHL leadership and development course for members of our SMHL Wellbeing Pathway Course. This course is designed to support Senior Mental Health Leads develop an embedded culture and ethos of wellbeing. One module of this course specifically focuses on the area we’ve discussed in this article, offering even more support on how to develop a shared vision and values for a culture of wellbeing.

Find out how you can access funding from the DfE by accessing our FREE information session. Find out more about our whole school approach to wellbeing by joining our free webinar.

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