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Published:  30 Mar 2023

New expert group focuses on supporting wellbeing at school

30 March 2023 marked the first kick-off meeting of the European Commission's new expert group on enhancing supportive learning environments for vulnerable learners and for promoting wellbeing and mental health at school.

Well-being session between young pupil and educator

Expert group objectives

Following a call for applications last year, the European Commission has created an expert group focused on developing evidence-based policies to support learning environments and wellbeing in school at the European and national levels. The experts come from relevant backgrounds in the European educational landscape, such as academics, researchers, teachers and teachers’ trainers, and school psychologists.

The expert group will also develop policy recommendations and guidelines for EU countries, policy makers at EU, national and regional levels, as well as local schools.

The initiative aligns with the Commission's goal of creating a European Education Area by 2025. It is closely tied to the Pathways to School Success initiative and the objectives and legacy of the 2022 European Year of Youth.

Joined-up policies

The expert group will also create connections with other initiatives of the European Education Area including:

  • EU Strategy on the Rights of the Child
  • European Child Guarantee
  • EU Youth Strategy
  • European Strategy for a Better Internet for Kids
  • EU4Health
  • Digital Education Action Plan Strategy for the Rights of the Persons with Disabilities

Expert report on mental health and wellbeing in schools

The starting point of the Commission’s expert group is a report about students’ wellbeing titled “A systemic, whole-school approach to mental health and wellbeing in schools in the EU” and released by The Network of Experts working on the Social dimension of Education and Training (NESET). The report serves as a reaction to the urgent need for schools in Europe to place a high priority on students' mental health and wellbeing in safe and inclusive environments. It offers a framework for boosting wellbeing and mental health using a whole-school strategy, including implementation in the curriculum, classroom, and school ecology. 

Recent findings on wellbeing at school

The latest PISA study from 2018 showed that:

  • Pupils' sense of belonging in schools is declining and bullying is pervasive
  • Around 20% of European school children experience mental health problems during their school years, with half of those issues (mainly anxiety and depression) developing before age 14
  • Teachers are also concerned: in Europe, 24% of teachers report that their job has a negative impact on their mental health, and 22% of them report the same in relation to their physical health
  • Varying personal and contextual factors, such as socio-economic status, gender, ethnicity, and disabilities, can contribute to a higher risk of underachievement and decreased wellbeing in schools.

Research shows that incorporating mental health, wellbeing and bullying prevention programmes in schools is one of the most effective strategies to support the psychological wellbeing of children and young people.

Published:  30 Mar 2023