Ākonga voice central to wellbeing project

Issue: Volume 101, Number 6

Posted: 16 May 2022
Reference #: 1HAUEC

Ākonga at Napier Girls’ High School are the first in Aotearoa New Zealand to contribute to the Student Wellbeing Measures project – development of a wellbeing measures and measuring tool. Acting deputy principal Caroline Johnson says the school has already gained valuable insights from participating in the mahi.

“We need the voice of our ākonga to understand what student wellbeing looks like for them,” says Caroline Johnson.

Measure/measures of student wellbeing – with students, for students and by students.

“I wanted to participate in the early stages of this project as the students are placed at the centre of this mahi,” says Caroline Johnson.

This project develops a measure/measures of student wellbeing – with students, for students and by students.

“We need the voice of our ākonga to understand what student wellbeing looks like for them. We need to actively listen to our ākonga.”

Caroline explains that schools in Aotearoa New Zealand need a student wellbeing measurement tool that is culturally appropriate and demonstrates Te Ao Māori concepts of wellbeing. And, she says, it is crucial that we have a set of reliable, valid, and easy-to-use student wellbeing measures for common use that reflect the cultural and educational context unique to Aotearoa.

“I also believe there is a need for a student wellbeing measurement tool in Aotearoa that has a strength-based and mana-enhancing approach. Current wellbeing tools focus on mental wellbeing, bullying, discrimination, and harassment and, while these are important indicators, I am delighted that this new tool will focus on student strengths and positive wellbeing aspirations.

“It is reassuring to know that the Ministry of Education is developing a consistent, holistic, and stable set of measures of student wellbeing that are underpinned and guided by the New Zealand Child and Youth Wellbeing Strategy and not a new framework.”

Caroline is the across school teacher leading the hauora team for Mataruahou Kāhui Ako, as well as being a health and physical education teacher at Napier Girls’ High. She was encouraged to take part in the wellbeing project by Glenn France, lead principal of the kāhui ako, as they wanted a student wellbeing measures tool that could be used to collect data.

“The data could help us respond to common issues across our kāhui ako and support wider community needs. I was excited to hear about a tool that would provide a clear understanding of the concept of wellbeing from the perspective of ākonga,” says Caroline.

In-class workshops

With the support of principal Dawn Ackroyd, and head of learning health and physical education Amanda Petera, Caroline facilitated workshops in her Year 9 Health and Year 11 Wellbeing classes.

“You can choose your student engagement mechanism to suit your students and school, and I chose class-based workshops as opposed to online.”

Caroline says students responded well to the animated instructions and clear questions. Workshops are virtual co-facilitated lessons that the class teacher can run independently; they are available in English and te reo Māori.

“It is very flexible; you can fit them around your school timetable and curriculum, and it was easy for me to incorporate into our health programme.”

A classroom kit contains all resources, and the Ministry provides a step-by-step facilitation guide.

“You can choose whether you would like to complete the short version or full version. I completed the short version in 55 minutes, and I imagine that the full version would take approximately two hours,” says Caroline.

Teachers can be flexible in how they run the workshops – they can be broken up over a couple of lessons. There is minimal workload involved and there is no cost for the school.

Ākonga-driven change

Caroline says her school has already acted upon information gathered from ākonga.

“I could identify some trends, good practice, gaps, and opportunities to strengthen student wellbeing in our school, and shared these with our wellbeing committee.

“The information has prompted our school to look at our vision around healthy living. For example, many students said that they wanted more food choices at the canteen so we are planning a canteen review and will explore schoolwide food and drinks to encourage healthy eating.”

In response to Year 9 students asking for strategies to support positive health and wellbeing, Caroline adapted the term 2 mental health unit to include tools to manage worry and anger, positive self-talk, mindfulness, gratitude practice, sleep tips, vision boards and how to build self-efficacy.

Some students commented that the school could provide more support for the LGBTQIA+ community, so teachers were reminded of using correct pronouns and making the school a safe, accepted, and inclusive place.

“I would encourage other schools (Years 7–13) to participate in the student engagement phase so that the Ministry of Education can develop a consistent set of measures of student wellbeing across Aotearoa. We need to build a set of key quantifiable measures that are meaningful, relevant, valid, trusted, and reliable. School leadership and kāhui ako will utilise these measures to monitor, respond and improve student wellbeing. We need as many students as possible to participate in this important mahi. Ultimately, we know that good student wellbeing improves learning outcomes.”

The student engagement phase is open until 30 June 2022.

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero, reporter@edgazette.govt.nz

Posted: 1:00 PM, 16 May 2022

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