When academic performance and wellbeing collide: School flourishing thrives

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Does a school with outstanding academic results, at the expense of student happiness and wellbeing, constitute a good school?

Can a school have happy and contented students who consistently perform to high academic standards? 

The notion of flourishing sits at the intersection of these two questions.

In my experience, the pursuit of flourishing has made a profound difference in the way schools deliver education in this country and abroad.

A recent study commissioned by Scots found that members of our school community deemed our pastoral care, co-curricular and academic programs to be well above the standard of other benchmarked schools. With that in mind, Scots has consistently been placed among the top regional schools in NSW.  In 2015, Scots was ranked in the top 100 Schools in NSW – and the highest ranking school outside of Sydney.

Flourishing unpacked

So, what constitutes a ‘flourishing’ school?

Flourishing is the fusion of Learning Well and Learning with Purpose.  Flourishing is when academic learning and wellbeing become one of the same. Together, they have the capacity to produce exceptional outcomes for students, their teachers and the wider school community.

Learning well

To enable students to flourish they must first be given the tools to Learn Well – to feel happy, confident, engaged and cared for in all of their academic and co-curricular pursuits.

As educators it is our responsibility to help our students Learn Well by providing access to personalised wellbeing programs and wellbeing professionals, a healthy balance of curricular and co-curricular activities, and service learning activities which embrace educational, personal and professional growth.

To Learn Well means instilling resilience, courage and curiosity in students.

It means ensuring that they are supported by their teachers, mentors as well as their peers.

Learning well is where students grow to understand their role in their own learning, take ownership of their learning, and become self-managed independent learners.

Learn with purpose

For students to flourish they must also Learn with Purpose. 

Purposeful learning is achieved through intentional teaching. This means that teachers deliver subject matter that is relevant to students and can be applied to real world contexts.

The goal of purposeful learning is to enable students to reach their full potential as independent, community aware learners, committed to academic achievement.

This means providing a learning environment that focuses on the holistic development of each student, enhancing academic achievement through personalised learning, and teaching to enhance student engagement and connection with the broader world.

Purposeful learning assists students to come to their full fruition, to flourish both inside and outside of the classroom.

Growth mindset

To enable purposeful learning and flourishing it is critically important to instill a growth mindset in our students.

What is a growth mindset?

According to noted psychologist, Carol Dweck, a person with a growth mindset ‘…knows that talents can be developed and that great abilities are built over time. A person with a growth mindset believes that qualities can be cultivated through effort’.

It is our role as educators to instill a growth mindset in our students. This means providing a safe place for our students to learn and take calculated risks, with the support of a safety net should they not initially succeed.

As educators we must understand that wellbeing is a powerful enabler which leads to higher levels of engagement, creative thinking, open mindedness and academic performance.

We need to provide the tools for students so that they are ready to fly (not trip) when they step over the threshold of school into the real world.

We must constantly remind ourselves that a flourishing student is a child that is happy in themselves and has the capacity to learn.

A flourishing student has the capacity to be better than their best.

At a school level, significant resourcing and investment is often required to implement wellbeing strategies.

As someone who has been involved in education for a long time, I can assure you that there is no better ROI for a Principal or a school than seeing our students flourish.

– Ms Peggy Mahy, Principal