Whole School and College Approach to Wellbeing

Guidance for schools on how you can adopt a whole school approach to supporting mental health and wellbeing

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Picture above shows a cartoon of a group of people holding hands, and the service logo

Adopting a whole school approach to mental health and well-being is advocated as necessary in terms of trying to prevent mental health and well-being problems from arising and growing, but also in terms of cultivating a swift and confident response to problems when they do present, so as to minimise their impact for all.  It is about having a good over-view of the school population and the systems in place to support it. 

"In an authentic ‘whole school approach’ well-being and mental health are ‘everyone’s business’, with genuine involvement of all staff, pupils, governors, parents and the community, and outside agencies” (Katherine Weare). 

 This is a growing area of interest, and one that we’re hoping to develop further in Suffolk. For more information watch this video and click on the drop-down boxes below to find out more: 

For further support, please also see our section Psychology and Therapeutic Services

To see all our latest mental health news go to our homepage

1) It adopts whole school thinking

  • Starts with a positive and universal focus on well-being
  • Develops a supportive school and classroom climate and ethos
  • Identifies and intervenes early
  • Takes a long-term approach
  • Promotes the well-being of staff and tackles staff stress

 2) It engages the whole community

  • Promotes pupil voice and peer learning
  • Involves parents, carers and families

3) It prioritises professional learning and staff development

  • Understands risk and resilience to actively respond to problems and difficulties
  • Helps all students with predictable change and transitions

4) It implements targeted programmes and interventions

  • Uses a range of leaders for specific programmes
  • Teaches social and emotional skills

5) It develops supportive policy

  • Provides clear boundaries and robust policies

6) It connects appropriately with approaches to behaviour management

  • Understands the causes of behaviour

7) It implements targeted responses and identify specialist pathways

  • Provides clear pathways of help and referral
  • Provides more intense work on skills work for those with difficulties

Source: What works in promoting social and emotional well-being and responding to mental health problems in schools? Advice for Schools and Framework Document (2015) Professor Katherine Weare,  

List of key questions for a school to reflect on in order to begin developing a whole school approach

  1. It’s about leadership and management: How is the school or college providing visible senior leadership for emotional health and wellbeing?
  2. It’s about ethos and environment: How does the school or college’s culture promote respect and value diversity?
  3. It’s about curriculum, teaching and learning: What focus is given within the curriculum to social and emotional learning and promoting personal resilience, and how is learning assessed?
  4. It’s about enabling student voice: How does the school or college ensure all students have the opportunity to express their views and influence decisions?
  5. It’s about staff development: How are staff supported in relation to their own health and wellbeing so as to be able to support student wellbeing?
  6. It’s about working with parents and carers: How does the school or college work in partnership with parents and carers to promote emotional health and wellbeing?
  7. It’s about identifying needs and monitoring impact: How does the school or college assess the needs of students and the impact of interventions to improve wellbeing?
  8. It’s about targeted support and appropriate referral: How does the school or college ensure timely and effective identification of students who would benefit from targeted support and ensure appropriate referral to support services?

The Psychology and Therapeutic Service is currently using two structured interventions for auditing whole school mental health and well-being, and then helping schools to develop action plans from these.  One of these is the Sandwell Charter Mark, and the other is SWERL (Supporting Wellbeing, Emotional Resilience and Learning).  More information on these will follow. 

If you would like to know more about either of these two approaches, please email:

Claire Darwin, Principal Educational Psychologist and SWERL facilitator Claire.Darwin@suffolk.gov.uk 

Or Kay Breton, Specialist Educational Psychologist Mental Health &  Whole School Approaches Kay.Breton@suffolk.gov.uk

It can be tempting for schools under pressure to see work to promote wellbeing and address mental health problems as a luxury or optional extra. This however runs contrary to the strong evidence on the links between well-being, learning and school improvement, evidence which has recently been brought together by Public Health England. Some indicative evidence from this briefing confirms:

  • children with greater well-being, lower levels of mental health problems and greater emotional attachment to school achieve higher grade scores, better examination results, better attendance and drop out less often, 
  • social and emotional skills are a more significant determinant of academic attainment than IQ.
  • the strong correlation between the quality of PSHE in a school and the school’s overall effectiveness.

Schools can be confident that a focus on well-being and mental health not only enables them to provide healthy and happy school environments for pupils and staff and prepare the citizens of tomorrow with sound character and values, but also directly supports their more immediate mission: the promotion of effective learning.

           NCB a whole school framework for emotional well beeing and mental health  (Picture to the left is of the Whole School Framework document cover)


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