Creating a Healthy Environment in Schools

The foundation of a healthy and thriving school environment begins with strong leadership and a genuine commitment to staff wellbeing. When leaders prioritise and model a culture of wellbeing, it sets the tone for the entire school community, fostering an atmosphere of support, growth, and resilience.

By leading from the top-down, our leaders can inspire and empower us as educators to prioritise our own self-care, thereby enabling us to better support the health, development, and learning of our students. Recognising the demanding nature of our profession, especially in the face of challenges such as teacher shortages and the ongoing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, it becomes even more important for our leaders to invest in tools, resources, and strategies that promote our mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing.

By doing so, they not only create a positive and nurturing work environment but also enhance our collective ability to help students reach their full potential. Ultimately, supporting the wellbeing of school staff is a win-win situation that can have far-reaching positive implications on the overall success of our school community.

Tools to assist with wellbeing in schools

Efforts are being made to improve tools and resources for school leaders and educators to enhance wellbeing in schools. The Australian Council for Health, Physical Education, and Recreation (ACHPER) has developed a framework based on the World Health Organization’s Global Standards for Health Promoting Schools. This framework focuses on key themes and guiding principles for effective health education.

To support the implementation of the framework, the ACHPER has also created a National Principles of Health Education audit tool. This tool helps principals assess their school’s strengths and weaknesses regarding health and wellbeing. It covers areas such as the school environment, curriculum, and partnerships with external organisations.

How the audit tool can help

There are several ways this tool can assist schools in creating a healthier environment for both employees and students:

Comprehensive Framework: The National Principles of Health Education audit tool is based on the World Health Organization’s Global Standards for Health Promoting Schools, providing schools with a comprehensive framework that covers key themes and guiding principles. This framework ensures that schools have a well-rounded approach to health education, addressing areas such as school policies, physical and social environments, health skills and education, parental and community involvement, and access to health services. The tool acts as a roadmap for schools to assess their current practices and identify areas for improvement in promoting health and wellbeing.

Self-Assessment and Improvement: The audit tool is designed to assist teachers and school leaders in understanding their current strengths and weaknesses in health education. By using the tool, schools can conduct a self-assessment of their practices, curriculum, and partnerships related to health and wellbeing. It helps them identify areas that are well-covered and areas that need further development or improvement. This self-reflective process allows schools to take ownership of their health education initiatives and work towards enhancing the effectiveness of their programs.

Resource Allocation: Limited budgets often pose challenges for schools when it comes to prioritising spending on various aspects of education. The audit tool can be particularly useful for principals in making informed decisions about allocating resources for health and wellbeing initiatives. By identifying staff members with relevant qualifications, analysing the physical environment, and exploring community partnerships, the tool helps principals determine how to make the most efficient use of their budget. It guides them in investing in professional development for teachers, leveraging existing staff expertise, and collaborating with external organisations to maximise the impact of their resources on promoting health in the school community.

Teachers, principals, and other school leaders can complete the self-guided audit here.

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