Student Wellbeing is at the centre of everything we do at Blackwater Community school. In May 2016 our school was awarded the Amber Flag in recognition for the promotion of positive mental health within our school environment. There are a number of structures and initiatives in place in Blackwater Community School to ensure that students feel happy, safe and supported in our school environment. These include:
Teachers can play a particularly important role in raising children’s self-esteem, motivation and confidence by the way they organise teaching and learning. How teaching happens matters! Given that students spend most of their day in class, the day-to-day experience of teaching and learning within the classroom probably provides the greatest opportunity to contribute to student wellbeing. Wellbeing is supported through learning and teaching that helps students feel confident, connected and actively engaged in their learning. Research with teachers has found that learning and teaching methodologies associated with developing key skills can help students feel more confident, connected and actively engaged in their learning. At BCS, school management provide opportunities for teachers to share their practices to the whole staff. This initiative has proved hugely successful and is an example of collaboration that has positively influenced the Wellbeing of staff. Staff are also encouraged to be part of their subject associations and attend CPD, with costs being covered by management.
Assessment has a huge role to play in contributing to student Wellbeing at BCS. Research shows that the greatest benefits for student learning occurs when they receive quality feedback that helps them to understand how their learning can be improved. This helps students feel more engaged in the learning process, more in control of their learning and confident in their ability to improve. Teachers at BCS provide feedback to students on tests and work in the form of comments. This would take the form of what students have done well, what needs to improve and how students can improve. Teachers have also been encouraged to engage in a wider variety of assessment practices as a result of in-service received from JCT, other bodies and the sharing of practice that occurs in the school.
Schools policies provide the compass by which BCS navigates its way. Many of the school policies in BCS relate directly to student Wellbeing. These include:
Research has shown that where a supportive approach is adopted to behaviour, student wellbeing is optimised. At BCS, a positive discipline approach is taken, where students are awarded for behaving, rather than punished for misbehaving.
School policies are developed in a collaborative fashion, easily accessible by all, with student voice playing an important role in their formation and review.
Students at Junior Cycle study PE, CSPE and SPHE. All junior students are undertaking the Short Course in PE. The study of these curricular areas ensures that all students engage in important learning about wellbeing through key curriculum areas. At Senior Cycle, classes have Religion and Guidance classes.
Junior classes are also timetabled for an extra Wellbeing/Social class. This class aims to meet the identified needs of our students. Feedback from surveys and focus groups with students, parents and teachers has helped inform the content that is covered during this class. Year heads also use this opportunity to address issues that may arise during the year.