The link between wellbeing and attainment

February 2, 2021

Alan Cornish

Head of Primary School


Wellbeing in schools is now being discussed more than ever around the world and for good reason. There are increasing numbers of articles about the long term effects of this pandemic on our communities and our children’s wellbeing. Anecdotally, we can see this in school too since our return back in February, in small ways. Whilst we are rightfully astonished by the resilience shown by the children, it should not be taken for granted and we are doing all we can to ensure wellbeing is front and centre. And this means accepting that things are not perfect and talking about it.

Children are readjusting to life back in school, to the routines, to their friendship groups, to being outside and wearing masks all day, to the expectations we place on them to achieve and behave. They have to work at rebuilding relationships and trust with teachers and colleagues in an environment that must have protocols to keep them distant. For some, this is harder than others and we accept that. Add to this the pressure many feel to catch up academically returning to school after a disrupted year. Little wonder so many articles are being written, we need help to process this and find a balance.
Wellbeing is essential for learning, and learning benefits wellbeing – it is an interdependent relationship.

A recent Impact Study carried out by Dr Ariel Lindorff at Oxford University, looked at international research over the last 10 years, to better understand links between wellbeing and academic attainment as well as other educational outcomes. The study concluded that there is strong international evidence to support the claim that ‘whole-school approaches’ to promoting wellbeing can influence academic attainment and have positive effects on a wide range of other educational outcomes, including mental health, motivation and behaviour.

As I said, our task is to consider how to marry the two in an authentic, harmonious and sustainable way to ensure our children flourish academically and in their sense of wellbeing. We encourage all to embrace the concept of collective responsibility for wellbeing within our school community, but these are a few of the little things we are doing to try to help:

Firstly, we need to be aware of it, show patience and understanding. For example, we are encouraging those children who are a little rusty on the ideas of fair play and tolerance at break times to reflect on this. If they can, they will be in a much calmer frame of mind to focus in the next lesson and therefore achieve more.

Secondly, every morning, Ms Emilia greets the children as they enter school with a smile and asks a simple question to see how they are feeling that morning. This helps build trust and helps us monitor pupil wellbeing and support where needed. Moreover, before the Easter break, we will survey the children asking them about their sense of wellbeing to help us measure it and further identify areas that we can improve and support.

Thirdly, Year 6’s transition programme has been adapted and brought forward to ensure they are mentally ready for the move to Year 7. This week and next they will enjoy lessons with Secondary teachers and have some counselling sessions to support their mental health and manage expectations.

Importantly, our teachers have identified areas in the curriculum that need more input, focussing on those areas in class and putting in place some intervention programmes for individuals or small groups of pupils who need it more. We also delayed the GL Progression Tests, usually in May, will now take place in June.

These are just some of the things we are doing to support wellbeing and attainment, because we know that happy and motivated pupils behave better and achieve more. This pandemic has made that more challenging for everyone, but, like all things, it will pass. But whilst it is here, noticing the little things matters. For example, have you noticed that wearing masks has reduced your water intake? A little thing that can have big consequences, so allow me to finish with a little tip from Irene in Year 3 to boost your wellbeing and attainment.

Did you know?

Lack of water is the Number 1 cause of being tired during the day – University of Washington studies show that a decrease of 2% water in your body may temporarily lead to memory loss, difficulty in basic maths calculations and difficulty in focusing. If you drink 5 glasses of water you can decrease by 45% the occurrence of serious disease.