Strengthening student wellbeing
The expertise of school guidance counsellors in helping students with anxiety at home, school and in the wider community is in huge demand as a result of the Covid-19 lockdown.
This is hardly surprising when the activities and connections with others that bring a sense of belonging, and the learning opportunities and achievements in the classroom, on the stage and the sporting field, have been turned upside down. Students' ability to be resilient and box on in times of such uncertainty for everyone around them has been well and truly put to the test.
Conversations about hauora and wellbeing are even more critical as all those involved in school settings begin to re-establish routines and learning programmes.
School guidance counselling affects many aspects of Te Whare Tapa Whā, often strengthening relationships within whanau at home and school, attending to immediate needs (taha tinana), providing a safe environment to express emotions and reflect (taha hinengaro) and lifting the spirits (taha wairua) of rangatahi as they navigate te ao hurihuri (changing world.)
It is timely then to remind ourselves of the Te Pakiaka Tangata: Strengthening Student Wellbeing for Success guidelines to help us navigate our provision of pastoral care, guidance and counselling. These guidelines were developed in response to an Education Review Office evaluation of the existing provision of guidance and counselling services in secondary schools. They were released at the end of 2017 and support the notion that everyone in a school has a role to play in supporting the wellbeing of students, although there is a range of roles within a school that contribute differently to this support.
PPTA was well represented in the development of this document that provides evidence based, strategic and practical advice to schools. It is more than a guide about guidance counselling, providing advice about legal and ethical responsibilities, culturally-responsive practice, responding to young people with diverse identities and backgrounds, collaborative staff relationships and much much more.
Each school should be using these guidelines to develop their own plan for providing high-quality pastoral care, guidance and counselling for their students, and for integrating this care into its own culture. You can delve into the guidelines yourself which are on the PPTA website under the Guidance Counsellors page or on the Ministry of Education education.govt.nz website – there is a wealth of ideas, advice and links to further resources and support.
From pastoral care to ethical dilemmas
Te Pakiaka Tangata covers a number of topics. These include:
- The priority of student wellbeing – hauora
- Understanding pastoral care, guidance and counselling in a school environment
- Positive school approaches and practices
- Principles of good pastoral care
- Role of form/whānau teachers and deans
- Role of the school guidance counsellor
- Good practice guidelines for school guidance counsellors
- Pastoral care, guidance and counselling with Māori students and whānau, particularly in wharekura
- Role of school boards of trustees
- Role of the principal and senior leaders
- The principal/guidance counsellor relationship
- Traumatic incidents – responding as a team
- Common ethical dilemmas
- The concept of wellbeing includes the physical, mental and emotional, social and spiritual dimensions of health.
- Hauora is a Māori concept of health unique to New Zealand, which holistically encompasses all aspects of a young person. It comprises taha tinana, taha hinengaro, taha whānau and taha wairua. Each of these four dimensions of hauora are interconnected.
- Student wellbeing, or a lack of it, has a clear influence on student mental health and learning. To enable every student to achieve to their highest potential, it is essential that effective services to support student wellbeing are available both in schools and the wider community.
- School guidance counselling is a specialist role. Effective counselling seeks to empower the student to develop their coping skills and make positive changes in their lives. It includes working with individuals, groups and families/whānau, and working at the interface between students and others around them who may influence their lives.
Other related updates in brief
- PPTA along with NZEI and the Ministry of Education have commissioned some research on the funding of Children with Complex Needs with a view to understanding how the teaching of children with additional needs impacts on teacher workload.
- $75.8 million over four years announced by the government funding for mental health and wellbeing. This funding includes support from 2021 and, amongst other provisions, will help employ more guidance counsellors in schools with over 450 students.