PISA Wellbeing data – what should a school leader take away from it?

The PISA Wellbeing data was released late December, by which time most people were winding down and getting ready for minced pies, doughnuts and other cultural appropriate food.  It is a rather lengthy document of 350+ pages so we’ve highlighted three points to consider that may prompt discussion and evaluation with your team:  

UK is 73rd / 79 for student wellbeing: measured as satisfaction with life, not feeling like outsiders at school and not doubting their future plans when facing failure.

This is a sad read for any educator or parent.  As young people spend a large amount of time at school, so it’s worth asking what else we can do, as educators, to support and influence students’ wellbeing? Programmes like Bloom are helping 14 to 18 year olds to become more reflective, resilient and self-aware through more positive self-talk and other approaches. We designed Bloom as we all want students to realise their full academic potential and want to help them to revise ‘smartly’ and but be prepared for exams, but do we give equal emphasis to supporting them and creating the culture and conditions to support their emotional resilience and personal wellbeing.  Aside from the moral imperative to do this, good mental health and wellbeing is correlated with academic performance.  With the new mental health curriculum being mandatory from September 2020 we hope the above will be discussed in all classes.  

There is no significant difference between academically resilient students and other students suggesting all students have roughly equally low wellbeing

(Please noteAcademic resilience is measured as those from disadvantaged background who score in the top 1/4 for reading.)   Resilience is a term used in many school moto’s as I’ve mentioned before and is often discussed as part of PSHE programmes. However, the report points out that even those with academic resilience are still showing low wellbeing which demonstrates that wellbeing as a whole still needs to be a focus for educators.  As important as resilience and growth mindsets are, there are many more components to wellbeing and we need to make sure that staff are confident exploring a wider spectrum of ideas and approaches with groups of students and initiating conversations with individuals about wellbeing?  

UK students say that bullying negatively impacts on their wellbeing, whereas having a sense of belonging at school, student co-operation and parental emotional support has a positive impact.

This is not a breakthrough or a new discovery, but is a reminder for us to consider how we can reduce bullying in our schools.  Ask yourself how have you created communities in your students?  Across age groups and across subjects?  Is there an initiative you can magpie from another school such as a buddy scheme across or the older students in leading hobby classes for the younger students at lunch or after school?  This has shown to not only create a sense of community but give the older students opportunity to plan, lead and problem solve.   Additionally, does a student have a key person that that teacher has been given the time to get to know? We know how important that is for a sense of belonging no matter the age of the child.   We are aware that questionnaires lead to social desirability bias and such a long questionnaire can lead to other effects (such as boredom and not reading a questionnaire properly) and therefore a process where we’d also have qualitative snippets of interviews would be the dream when it comes to PISA Wellbeing data.  Despite this there are lots of questions one could ask themselves as a starting discussion from this data set to encourage introspection and evaluation at a school or college setting.