School culture: which elements are perceived to be most important for student mental health?

school culture and mental health
A qualitative study in three English secondary schools identified four overarching dimensions of school culture that were perceived by respondents to impact on student mental health. 
 
Key findings from the study in UK secondary schools on school culture and student mental health:

The research explored four aspects of culture: 

Dimensions of school culture
Dimensions of school culture

Respondents identified elements of school culture that aligned into four dimensions; structure and context, organisational and academic, community, and safety and support.

Through structured discussions with school staff, pupils and parents in years 8, 10 and 12, the researchers found that although all four aspects of culture were influential on mental health, both staff and pupils identified diversity (by ethnicity, socio-economic status, gender and sexuality) as the main aspect of culture likely to determine mental health. Other elements that were identified as important include inclusive practice, pastoral support, quality of relationships and student participation. The last of these were regarded as unsatisfactory by most participants. 
  
The researchers also point to the important interdependence between these aspects of culture, suggesting that schools recognise the links between these aspects and make improvements across all areas, in order to see better results. 
 
The study also provides a useful summary of recent research into school mental health such as the finding that strategies aimed at the student level have limited effectiveness because they do not address aspects of the school context that are determinants of poor mental health. Key aspects of a positive culture for student mental health include ensuring pupil participation, strong emphasis on social and emotional learning, effective relationships, student agency and having a sense of belonging

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