Schools that effectively integrate well-being into their culture see young people as active agents in their lives.
One of our key goals at St Andrew’s is to promote student agency in relation to well-being. We know that a well-being approach needs to be much more than students simply being the passive recipients of a ‘programme’.
So, what is agency? When students’ have agency, they make decisions on behalf of themselves. It’s about choice, but also about taking responsibility. Educationalist Peter Johnston explains that agency is the sense that we have the power to affect change. Johnston writes, “If nothing else, children should leave school with a sense that if they act, and act strategically, they can accomplish their goals”.
At the end of 2017, Lifehack– The Prime Minister’s Youth Mental Health Project circulated a publication related to Mapping and Mobilising Conditions for Youth Well-being. After reading this publication, our well-being committee asked several important questions;
How well do we involve young people in our design and decisions?
How well do we show young people they are valued and important?
I have had the pleasure to work with many student leaders and am constantly impressed with their initiative, creativity and passion. When given the opportunity and support, a lot of our students rise to the challenge and surprise us. They enjoy it too. And it isn’t just about achieving the goal or the outcome; through the process they build essential capabilities related to critical thinking, collaboration and self-regulation.
Over the past eight weeks a group of Year 12 students have planned and lead an action-packed student well-being week. They organised a programme which included Zumba and Jump Jam sessions, student yoga, a mindfulness and reflection room and focus group meetings related to mental health with Head of Guidance Tom Matthews. The well-being week was introduced to Senior and Middle school assemblies alongside a student focus on PERMA-V, our shared framework for well-being.
Here are some student perspectives on participating in this project;
“I enjoyed working as a team to make things happen. I thought it was great how everyone in the group contributed in a different way and valued other’s ideas in committee meetings.”
“Getting involved in this event has been a lot of fun. It was awesome to see all our ideas come to fruition and making a difference for the student body. I think it is important that students get to organise these events… we know best what makes a difference for our well-being”.
“I loved the energy of Jump Jam. I haven’t done it since I was at primary school. It was so cool to see boys and girls right from Year 9 to Year 13 having a lot of fun together. All the laughter and the music. I felt more energised in period 5 too.”
“I liked having the opportunity to lead something that will makes a positive difference for students and promotes well-being as being important.”
We intend for student agency to be a key pillar of our well-being strategy moving forward. What actions do you take to build agency in your children or the young people that you work with?
Kerry Larby, Head of Well-being and Positive Education