Wellbeing at the heart of positive learning environment

Issue: Volume 100, Number 4

Posted: 8 April 2021
Reference #: 1HAJbh

With Bullying-Free NZ Week fast approaching, we talk to one school that has embedded wellbeing and identity into everything it does in order to create a positive, inclusive environment for learning.

Frimley School doesn’t have an anti-bullying programme per se. But what the Hawke’s Bay school does have is a strong focus on wellbeing and identity, which principal Tim White believes is helping to address some of the factors at the heart of bullying behaviours.  

“At the heart of bullying is a low sense of self-esteem. It’s about not feeling confident in who you are. Rather than tackling bullying, we’re addressing what we need to do to ensure that tamariki are confident, connected and valued members of our school community.”

Place-based curriculum

The first of Frimley School’s three main annual plan improvement measure areas is around language, culture and identity. With a strong focus on drawing on the knowledge and experiences of their students, embracing whānau perspectives through tools like Rongohia te Hau(external link), and incorporating te reo and tikanga Māori in teaching, the school has developed a place-based curriculum.

“How can we grow our curriculum so our tamariki are strong in who they are, where they come from and where they belong?” asks Tim.

The second target area is explicitly focused on wellbeing and hauora, encompassing strategies that contribute to the wellbeing of students and staff.  In fact, wellbeing is embedded in the school’s strategic plan.

These two areas provide a platform for the third target area of learning. 

“Learning can only flourish on a solid foundation of language, culture and identity, and wellbeing.”

Outcome improvements

There are some clear signs that what they’re doing is working. 

“We are seeing gradual improvement in learning outcomes in areas like literacy and numeracy, but we’re also seeing a much broader range of other outcomes that are just as valued. We see our children being much more confident in being able to express themselves, for example.”

The school’s Wellbeing@School(external link) data shows continuous improvement over a number of years. Tim says attendance rates have improved, and through school and Kāhui Ako driven professional learning, teachers are supported to form culturally responsive relationships, which is helping to reduce behaviour incidents overall.

He’s quick to confirm that the school is focused on long-term sustainable outcomes. 

“It’s a very iterative approach. When you start valuing learning that sits outside the core of literacy and numeracy, when you start listening to the aspirations of your whānau and start trialling non-conventional approaches to supporting tamariki and whānau, what you find is other people in the community start offering their knowledge.

“If you have a focus on hauora, you’re never looking for quick fixes. Instead of a band-aid you’re looking for a really coordinated response because you’re looking at all aspects, all the contributors to wellbeing,” he says.

Coordinated response

Deputy principal Ngahina Transom says that coordinated response includes pulling together the expertise of a public health nurse, Resource Teacher: Learning and Behaviour (RTLB), social worker (SWIS) and learning support coordinator to take a Whānau Ora-inspired approach to working with children and their families. 

“Fortnightly we meet around the table and do whatever we can to support our manu huiā – our children with complex needs, our treasures – and their whānau; we wrap around them.”

Linkages with values

The school also strongly invests in the PB4L Incredible Years Programme and takes restorative approaches wherever possible, because of the linkages with the school values: rangatiratanga, whanaungatanga, kaitiakitanga, and manaakitanga.

Ngahina says everything they do is underpinned by these values. 

“We talk about giving them mauri, breathing life into those values. There’s not a place in the school where the values aren’t present.” 

This includes in teaching and learning, where the school has developed a place-based curriculum based around the pepeha of Ngāti Kahungunu. 

“Our children are learning about him and what made him a strong and articulate leader – you’ll hear children say, ‘Today I’ve been Kahungunu when I did this’. So, the curriculum learning is giving them a pou from which to think about themselves as a person,” says Tim. 

Bullying-Free NZ Week 2021

This year, Bullying-Free NZ Week (BFNZ Week) will take place from Monday 17 May to Friday 21 May 2021.  

With the theme ‘He kōtuinga mahi iti, he hua pai-ā rau: Small ripples create big waves’, this year’s BFNZ Week is all about encouraging people to take the lead, spread the word, make a change. 

 Student leadership, agency and voice are all instrumental in the design and implementation of bullying prevention and response initiatives in schools.

BFNZ Week is supported by Sticks ‘n Stones, a youth-led bullying-prevention organisation that has developed student action packs, as well as the theme and key messages for the week. 

The week culminates in the Mental Health Foundation’s Pink Shirt Day, Friday 21 May.

How to get involved

  • Spread the word.
  • Keep an eye out for the activity packs and resources. The packs can be downloaded and include ideas and class activities to mark the week. There are also resources, tools and information to help schools understand and address bullying. 
  • Get your students involved. Get students talking about bullying and ways to end it.

They can enter the Bullying-Free NZ Week competition to win Prezzy cards.

They can also download student packs to get ideas and activities for bullying prevention – find out how to spread the word, take the lead and make a change. The packs are created by young people, for young people.

For younger students, there is a set of posters(external link) for primary and intermediate schools to talk about bullying behaviour and strategies for students to respond to bullying.

Find out more at bullyingfree.nz(external link).

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

Posted: 9:09 am, 8 April 2021

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