The South East Cornerstone Public School Division’s (SECPSD) board heard a presentation on supports for student wellbeing and wellness during the board’s final meeting of 2017 on Dec. 20.
Cheryl Anderson, the co-ordinator of student services, explained why the school division is focusing on this initiative, the initial steps that have been taken and future plans.
In studying the data in the Our School report, the division says it is aware that it has students with moderate to high levels of anxiety, as reported by approximately 25 per cent of students in grades 4-12.
This was evident through students’ responses, via a four-point rating scale, to statements such as, “I worry about what other students think about me,” “I am too fearful or nervous,” “I worry about people laughing at me,” or “I worry about a teacher asking me a question.”
A comparison of three years of data showed that the range in the anxiety figures for all grade levels has remained relatively constant with Grades 4-8, ranging from 20-26 per cent for 2014-15, to 20-24 per cent for 2016-17.
Grades 7-12 ranged from 19-26 per cent for 2014-15 to 19-25 per cent for 2016-17. Within the system plan, it has also been determined that supports for developing a positive sense of belonging and a positive sense of relationships will be targeted.
The percentages of students in Grades 4-8 and in Grades 7-12 for the period of 2014-15 to 2016-17, with a positive sense of belonging has been increasing, with Grades 4-8 now at 75-83 per cent and Grades 7-12 at 67-77 per cent. Some indicators are survey responses to statements such as: “I make friends easily at school,” “I feel accepted for whom I am,” “School is a place where I feel like I belong,” and “I feel accepted by other kids my age.”
The numbers with respect to students in Grades 4-8 with a positive sense of relationships has seen a slight increase over the past three years, with the percentage for 2016-17 being 85-88 per cent as opposed to 80-88 per cent in 2014-15.
For Grades 7-12, the numbers have gone from 74-78 per cent in 2014-15, to 72-77 per cent in 2015-16, and finally to 70-80 per cent for 2016-2017.
This relates to responses to the question “Do you have close friends at school that you can trust?” Students were also evaluated based on answers to such statements as “I talk to a friend at school about my feelings,” “I get along with others at school” and “I listen to my friends when making decisions.”
“In order to reach our graduation goal we know we must focus on student wellbeing,” said Anderson. “Safety, sense of belonging and positive relationships need to be in place before impactful learning takes place.”
She stated that although the general perception in community may be that graduation is Grade 12, the process actually starts the minute students step into the doors for pre-kindergarten and kindergarten, and that the ultimate end goal is graduation.
Some of the main actions that the division is undertaking are researching programs and promoting effective practices in developing wellness in students through looking at what other school divisions are doing, researching a system wide plan around wellness, developing a committee to discuss staff wellness and at present, having three schools pilot the Canadian Mental Health Literacy Curriculum resource in Grade 9 health or Grade 10 wellness.
The division’s plan of action includes mental health first aid training, which was held this month for all of the Grade 9 health teachers, through a partnership with mental health who provided two trainers who taught six modules, including self-harm, eating disorders and anxiety. In addition, the Ministry of Education offered school divisions a grant to a maximum of $8,000 to provide the training, which will help with mileage and substitute costs.
Anderson noted that some of the east schools also got together and provided training for staff.
In addition, Anderson will meet on Jan. 31 with division counsellors regarding the creation of wellness walls in schools. Further, a professional development hub was provided through an online delivery model incorporating teacher choice.
The hub has been set up for teachers to support their professional growth plans and to support school improvement plans.
SECPSD is very pleased to have the support of the Weyburn and Estevan Police Services in bringing three valuable presentations focusing on safety to students in the coming months: Kids on the Block (for kindergarten-Grade 5), Tad Milmine’s Bullying Ends Here (for Grades 6-11 in March) and Before You Hit Send (focusing on Grades 4-6, 7-8 and 9-12, starting in February).