Supporting students to be ‘well beings’

Caulfield Grammar School’s approach emphasises the integration and prioritisation of wellbeing within all aspects of school life.

Caulfield Grammar School’s school-wide approach to wellbeing focuses on nurturing all members of their community – staff, students and families – to become and remain well beings.

This commitment is reflected within their school values, specifically that of thriving together, which represents the importance of each person taking responsibility for their own wellbeing and positively impacting the wellbeing of others.

The school’s approach also places emphasis on integrating and prioritising wellbeing within all aspects of school life, recognising the impact that positive wellbeing has on learning and life outcomes.

“Wellbeing and academics are intrinsically linked,” says Natalie Fanariotis, Caulfield Grammar’s Head of Wellbeing.

“For a young person to learn at their best, they need to feel and function at their best. When we feel good, we function better, we relate better to others, and we’re more resilient and can tackle challenges – whether that is a challenge in the classroom, or in life.”

For Caulfield Grammar’s student body, which ranges from ELC to Year 12, their experience of this embedded approach is seen, heard and felt across all areas of the school.

Central to this approach is visible wellbeing, an evidence-based model that integrates the fields of positive education, visible thinking and visible learning.

Founded by internationally renowned psychologist, Professor Lea Waters, the model stems beyond the classroom, positively impacting on interactions with and between students, families and staff.

Rather than being a set curriculum, visible wellbeing provides a shared language and understanding in which the school builds wellbeing and positive functioning across the community.

“I think schools are absolutely recognising the importance of wellbeing, that it is the cornerstone, the pillar of everything we’re doing,” says Fanariotis. “For our students to be great learners in life, they need to feel and be well.”

Visible wellbeing defines six pathways that lead to positive functioning, each of which guide the development and delivery of wellbeing practices and programs within the school.

These pathways support building knowledge and skills in staff, students and families in order to play to their strengths, manage their emotions, focus their attention, build supportive relationships, cope with adversity and set health habits and goals.

As schools were required to adjust to remote learning throughout 2020, these pathways helped to inform the school’s remote learning and wellbeing plan, which provided both students and families with the tools necessary to adapt to new ways of learning and interacting.

All junior and secondary students are provided opportunities to build their wellbeing skills and knowledge through a focused curriculum and wellbeing program.

Central to their experience is the School’s House system and broad and balanced offerings, both of which contribute to building a strong sense of belonging, connectedness and pride amongst students.

To ensure staff are equipped to proactively build wellbeing and be responsive to wellbeing needs, targeted professional learning such as youth mental health first aid is provided for all pastoral leaders.

This focus on adult learning also extends to families, who are invited to engage in targeted seminars and other learning opportunities designed to empower building wellbeing at home.

Student voice is also greatly valued at the School, with their insights and ideas helping to shape and build the School’s positive culture.

The student values project – an initiative designed to empower and authentically engage students – is one example of this.

The project involved the cooperation of six student-led committees across Caulfield Grammar’s Wheelers Hill, Malvern and Caulfield campuses, working collaboratively to define a series of aspirational behaviours that could be readily adopted and brought to life by the entire School student community.

This important work enabled greater student understanding, contextualisation and ownership of the school values – pursuing excellence, inspiring creativity, thriving together, embracing diversity, and living wholeheartedly.

Emily Hawdon, a Year 12 student in 2020, welcomed this unique collaborative approach to the project.

“I think the student input part of the project shows how progressive the values are and how the School will benefit from listening to the students, as well as teachers,” says Hawdon.

This commitment to focusing on developing and supporting the whole-being and living the school values continue to be at the heart of the Caulfield Grammar School approach.

In a COVID-safe world, this commitment to focusing on what really matters has never been more important – a motivation shared by Fanariotis through the Dave Hollis quote; “In the rush to return to normal, use this time to consider what parts of normal are worth rushing back to.”

The benefits of fostering student wellbeing were undeniable when addressing the challenges of 2020, and will continue to be of benefit in the future.

“Our students’ resilience and optimism have been a great barometer, and at all times decisions are being made with them at the centre,” says Caulfield Grammar School Principal Ashleigh Martin. “Our students have shown they have inner drive and fortitude; they can and will do great things.”

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