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Wellbeing at school

Addressing the wellbeing of pupils, social and emotional competencies, mental health, bullying and violence at school.

What is wellbeing at school?

Wellbeing is a state in which pupils are able to develop their potential, learn and play creatively.

Concretely, wellbeing at school means

  • feeling safe, valued and respected
  • being actively and meaningfully engaged in academic and social activities
  • having positive self-esteem, self-efficacy and a sense of autonomy
  • having positive and supportive relationships with teachers and peers
  • feeling a sense of belonging to their classroom and school
  • feeling happy and satisfied with their lives at school

Pupils who experience wellbeing can build and enjoy positive relationships with others and feel belonging to their school community.

What are the current challenges?

The latest Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results indicate that pupils’ sense of belonging at school is declining and (cyber)bullying is widespread.

Research underlines that school bullying has devastating consequences on learners’ health and academic achievement and increases the risk of early school leaving.

Around 20% of school children experience mental health problems, in particular anxiety and depression.

The COVID-19 pandemic has made this issue even more prominent, with many pupils suffering from reduced emotional wellbeing and motivation.

The ongoing Russian invasion of Ukraine and the challenge of ensuring the inclusion of Ukrainian refugee children in schools across the European Union (EU) makes wellbeing in schools all the more relevant.

Schools and teachers are not sufficiently prepared to deal with these issues and need to be supported.

The wellbeing of teachers and that of students is closely connected. Teachers need to experience a state of wellbeing themselves in order to be able to contribute to ensuring the wellbeing and mental health of their students.

Why it is so important to address them?

Schools are key to the promotion of mental health and wellbeing among young people. Children and young people spend a considerable amount time at school during a critical period for the development of their personality and socio-emotional competences.

Research indicates that incorporating socio-emotional learning, mental health, wellbeing and bullying prevention programmes in schools is one of the most effective ways to support the psychological wellbeing of children and young people, including those experiencing disadvantage and marginalisation.

This is in line with a more holistic vision of education, which recognises that children and adolescents need a balanced set of cognitive, social and emotional competences to achieve positive outcomes in school and in life.

Such an approach recognises the social, emotional and physical needs of children and young people and includes wellbeing and mental health as a key learning goal.

The link between academic and socio-emotional learning has been clearly underlined by empirical evidence, including neuroscientific research, demonstrating that learning is a relational and emotional process. Addressing learners’ wellbeing is therefore key to raising educational outcomes.

What is the EU doing to tackle these issues?

The Pathways to School Success initiative aims to promote better educational outcomes for all learners and the wellbeing of learners and educators at school.

An expert group will develop proposals on strategies for creating supportive learning environments for groups at risk of underachievement and for supporting wellbeing at school.

The expert group will start its activities in 2023.