Channelling youth wellbeing on SchoolTV

Issue: Volume 102, Number 12

Posted: 13 September 2023
Reference #: 1HAc6y

SchoolTV is a New Zealand-Australian initiative – a consolidated, expert-backed, digital platform for parents and whānau covering a broad range of mental health and wellness issues affecting secondary school students.

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What if every time a parent said to a teacher, ‘my son’s being bullied’ or ‘my daughter refuses to go to school and she used to love school,’ the teacher could point worried whānau to the TV?

Not just any TV, but SchoolTV, hosted on a school website featuring a team of well-known experts covering everything from neurodivergence and cultural inclusion to the impact of social media influencers and how to support children around self-harm.

SchoolTV covers mental health and wellness issues affecting school students and their families in long form videos, clips, and a range of resources.

Featuring well-known faces like Nigel Latta and Dr Melinda Webber alongside New Zealand and Australian psychologists, doctors, academics, practitioners and experts, the platform is a powerful pastoral tool, explains NZ sales manager Helen McFarlane.

“A few years back founders James Wilson and Rob Leishman were at a school event where renowned child and adolescent psychologist Dr Michael Carr-Gregg was talking. They said to each other, imagine if all schools had this privilege to have access to all the professionals in their fields talking about what is best for our students and how to help our school communities.”

From this kernel SchoolTV was born, a platform providing schools with easy access to expert insights.

“The idea was to amplify the voices of professionals dedicated to children’s wellbeing,” says Helen.

The website has now been installed in almost 100 schools across Aotearoa New Zealand.

“Schools are increasingly dealing with social and mental health issues; the need for a regulated and trusted resource that supports and connects parents, teachers and whānau has become a necessity,” she says.

Recently, Helen was in Victoria, Australia, helping support 12 schools coping with a tragedy involving five students from the community.

“They reached out because they said, ‘We need support for our parents and our communities, and we just don’t know where to go’.”

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Year 9 and 13 students at Hamilton Boys’ High School explore SchoolTV with director of wellbeing, Barney Killian.

Empowering parents

SchoolTV means all parents can have access to easy-to-understand information, empowering parents to better understand and connect with their children, explains Helen.

“Dr Carr-Gregg explains that parents looking for help online or out in the world can find information that is often confusing and could be fragmented and overwhelming. Parents are information saturated but still knowledge poor.

“It honours that when schools and families partner across wellbeing it has a huge impact on children’s outcomes. It strengthens the school-family partnership and builds new levels of trust and engagement.”

New Zealand psychologist Dr Emma Woodward coordinates the SchoolTV hub of experts from the NZ end, and specialises in a trauma-informed approach, says Helen.

“Experts in their fields are now approaching SchoolTV to be a part of it. They realise the importance of supporting school communities with palpable, intelligent and professional information.”

Supporting educators

A significant benefit of SchoolTV is the support it lends to educators, says Helen.

“Providing such a resource to parents can alleviate the teacher’s burden, making them feel more valuable. In turn, parents feel acknowledged and are directed towards concrete, intelligent and expert advice.

“The child feels supported, parents feel closer and more connected to their child. The teachers feel less pressured to know everything and have made a relationship with the parents. Everyone is more empowered. It’s a real gift of sorts.”

Manaakitanga is at the heart of SchoolTV – connecting schools with parents, children with parents, and parents with knowledge. This is reflective of SchoolTV’s commitment to cultural inclusivity, explains Helen.

“We knew we needed to do work on being a responsible treaty partner and we got a lot of advice from Māori consultants and spoke with Te Akatea New Zealand Māori Principals Association to understand their needs. That relationship is at the heart of who we are moving forward.”

The school gets real-time analytics of what topics families are clicking on, and the software is simple to use for parents and teachers alike, says Helen.

“That’s right, no logins! Parents said no logins so there are no logins. We set the software up on the school computer system, then the principal and whomever in the school needs access to the search results, are given access to the dashboard so the school can see which articles and videos are being watched the most.”

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SchoolTV can be hosted on the school’s website.

A school’s experience

Hamilton Boys’ High School’s Barney Killian is director of wellbeing to a diverse roll of around 2,200 students.

“I decided to use SchoolTV because there are a range of different topics available to parents to explore. Previously we had information evenings once a term for parents to attend and be informed on wellness issues.

“SchoolTV means we can deliver monthly issues to ALL the parents as well as provide parents with the library of online videos and information relevant to them that they can access at any time.

“Hamilton Boys’ High School SchoolTV is one of the schools that get the most hits on average. When I promote a topic to our whānau, we typically see around 400 hits on our online magazine, plus school links – it’s amazing. When you look at how many parents are accessing it, it’s very positive.”

He says that parents are drawn to, and have engaged with, topical issues of the day.

“We had a lot of interest in the topics sent out on social media influencers and their impact on students and the current topic of neurodiversity. I also spoke to staff about neurodiversity and how anxiety can present in students with ADHD for example. It’s a really positive platform to share information and allow staff and parents to support our students.

Barney says the ease of accessibility makes it so positive.

“We also send regular highlight topics to parents. Every week or two, we have a different wellbeing focus within the school. This week our theme was whanaungatanga. We posted the SchoolTV Relationships series link on our parent forum.”

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Wellbeing is key at Hamilton Boys’. Three Year 9 and one Year 13 student showcase their Boys to Men Mentoring Programme.

Creating connections

Barney explains how the resources are well used by staff, with their deans, counsellors, and academic and Māori mentors using it to communicate a range of topics relevant to them at the time.

“For example, the deans may want to address truancy with parents. The platform allows the dean to access and utilise any content on SchoolTV whether that be a one-minute video, five-minute video or a link to the entire topic.

“There is so much information out there. We use SchoolTV to help find information that is easy to access, easy to understand and unpatronising.

Barney says their school is lucky to be able to afford such a programme. And he says as a parent to secondary school-aged children himself, he understands the challenges parents and students face.

“Parenting is not easy! By sharing topics, we hope to create connection and discussion between parents and children.”

BY Education Gazette editors
Education Gazette | Tukutuku Kōrero,

Posted: 2:00 pm, 13 September 2023

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