Supporting Wellbeing in Schools in the Post-pandemic Era

A special issue of Education Sciences (ISSN 2227-7102). This special issue belongs to the section "Education and Psychology".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: 30 June 2024 | Viewed by 10010

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
The Graduate School of Education, The University of Western Australia, Crawley, WA 6009, Australia
Interests: youth mental health; educator wellbeing; school wellbeing; wellbeing in schools; systems approaches to wellbeing; motivation

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Research over the past ten years suggests that young people are experiencing unprecedented levels of disengagement, disconnect and distress across the developed world. For example, Lawrence and colleagues suggested that 13.9% of Australian children and young people (aged 4 to 17 years) met the criteria for a diagnosis of a mental disorder each year (Lawrence et al., 2015).  More recent Australian data suggest that almost two in five people (39.6%) aged between 16 and 24 years had a long-term mental disorder in 2020-21 (Australian Bureau of Statistics, 2020-21).

Programs and interventions aiming to support mental health and wellbeing in schools have largely maintained a key focus on the following three areas over the past 15 years:

  • Whole-school wellbeing approaches that aim to instill a broad range of mental health and wellbeing knowledge and skills across whole-school populations;
  • Systems level initiatives that aim to improve student mental health and wellbeing with a focus on school systemic change and improvement;
  • Focused initiatives which aim to foster young people’s understanding and enactment of a specific idea, behaviour or overall strategy associated with improved mental health and wellbeing.

Despite early optimism, ongoing research has produced mixed support for all of the above approaches for improving school-based wellbeing and engagement and decreasing school-based poor mental health and disconnect (e.g., Street, 2017).  Overall, it is proposed that whole-school approaches to support wellbeing, along with pro-active systemic change, produce the most effective outcomes. However, early findings suggest that the support for whole-school wellbeing approaches is, at best, mixed (e.g., Weare & Nind, 2011). In 2022, as we emerge from the pandemic, the high incidence of educator stress and overwhelm exacerbates attempts to better support young people and adds another layer to the consideration of how best to move forward. Furthermore, it is proposed that pressure to create positive change quickly, combined with a reluctance to challenge deeply ingrained social norms, contributes to a reluctance to enact long-term systemic change.

This themed issue of Education Sciences seeks articles that explore how we might better support improved mental health and wellbeing in schools, and how we might better encourage relevant stakeholders to adopt effective systemic development as we enter a post-pandemic era in history.

Topics that contributors may consider include, but are not limited to, the following questions:

  • What types of mental health and wellbeing interventions are proving to be most/least effective in schools as we move out of the pandemic?
  • What has the pandemic taught us about the implementation of mental health support in schools, and how best to move forward?
  • How has systemic change and development in schools impacted student mental health and wellbeing in recent times?
  • How has systemic change developed in response to the pandemic, and how have these changes informed our understanding of the interaction between school contexts and wellbeing?

References

Australian Bureau of Statistics. (2020-21). National Study of Mental Health and Wellbeing. ABS. https://www.abs.gov.au/statistics/health/mental-health/national-study-mental-health-and-wellbeing/2020-21.

Lawrence D, Johnson S, Hafekost J, Boterhoven De Haan K, Sawyer M, Ainley J, Zubrick SR. (2015). The Mental Health of Children and Adolescents. Report on the second Australian Child and Adolescent Survey of Mental Health and Wellbeing. Canberra: Department of Health.

Street, Helen (2017) Measures of success: Exploring the importance of context in the delivery of wellbeing and social and emotional learning programs in Australian primary and secondary schools in Frydenberg, E. Martin, A.J. and Collie R.J. (Eds) Social and Emotional Learning in Australia and the Asia Pacific. Springer Science and Business, Singapore.

Weare, K. & Nind, M. (2011) Mental health promotion and problem prevention in schools: What does the evidence say? Health Promotion International, 26(S1).

Dr. Helen Street
Guest Editor

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Keywords

  • youth mental health
  • school mental health
  • school engagement
  • wellbeing programs
  • post-pandemic wellbeing support
  • school systems development

Published Papers (7 papers)

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Research

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15 pages, 310 KiB  
Article
Changes in Healthy Behaviors among Arab Israeli Children Diagnosed with ASD amid the Coronavirus Outbreak: Mothers’ Perceptions
by Rafat Ghanamah
Educ. Sci. 2024, 14(3), 253; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci14030253 - 28 Feb 2024
Viewed by 654
Abstract
The constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic may have adverse effects on the health behaviors of children and adolescents, particularly those with neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This study aimed to examine changes in health-related behaviors, including physical activity, screen [...] Read more.
The constraints imposed by the COVID-19 pandemic may have adverse effects on the health behaviors of children and adolescents, particularly those with neurodevelopmental conditions such as autism spectrum disorder (ASD). This study aimed to examine changes in health-related behaviors, including physical activity, screen time, and sleep duration, among children with ASD and their adherence to the 24-h movement guidelines during the pandemic. An online cross-sectional survey was conducted with 46 Arab Israeli mothers of children diagnosed with ASD. According to the responses provided by the mothers, the findings indicate a noteworthy reduction in physical activity, a marked rise in screen time, and a considerable increase in sleep duration amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, there was a decline in the portion of the sample complying with physical activity and screen time recommendations, coupled with an increase in the percentage of children meeting sleep duration guidelines. The prevalence of ASD children adhering to the overall 24-h movement guidelines was notably low during the COVID-19 outbreak. These findings contribute to the growing body of literature indicating adverse effects of the coronavirus pandemic on individuals with neurodevelopmental disorders, emphasizing the urgent necessity for healthcare, interventions, and programs tailored to ASD children. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Supporting Wellbeing in Schools in the Post-pandemic Era)
13 pages, 656 KiB  
Article
Effects of Gender and Age Interaction on Sense of Coherence and Subjective Well-Being of Senior High School Students in Northern Ghana
by Edmond Kwesi Agormedah, Francis Ankomah, Medina Srem-Sai, Regina Mawusi Nugba, Frank Quansah, John Elvis Hagan, Jr., Orkan Okan, Kevin Dadaczynski and Thomas Schack
Educ. Sci. 2024, 14(2), 178; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci14020178 - 09 Feb 2024
Viewed by 879
Abstract
Though several studies have established the effect of gender and age on the sense of coherence (SoC) and subjective well-being (SWB) among diverse populations, findings have been varied and inconclusive. These inconsistencies have been attributed to the differences in sample characteristics, methodological and [...] Read more.
Though several studies have established the effect of gender and age on the sense of coherence (SoC) and subjective well-being (SWB) among diverse populations, findings have been varied and inconclusive. These inconsistencies have been attributed to the differences in sample characteristics, methodological and cultural disparities. Thus, the present study assessed the following: (1) gender and age effect on SoC, (2) gender and age effect on SWB, and (3) moderating roles of gender and age in the link between SoC and SWB. Through a stratified sampling technique, 724 selected high school students from secondary schools in Northern Ghana completed the World Health Organization-5 Well-Being and Sense of Coherence instruments. The results showed that female students exhibited higher levels of SoC compared to their male counterparts. Whereas younger male and female students showed no significant difference in SWB levels, older female students, compared to older males, exhibited high levels of SWB. Age significantly moderated the relationship between SoC and SWB. With the same level of SoC, younger students were more likely to exhibit higher SWB compared to older ones. The findings call for sustainable gender- and age-based interventions because students subjectively develop SoC mechanisms for improving their well-being. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Supporting Wellbeing in Schools in the Post-pandemic Era)
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20 pages, 2024 KiB  
Article
Students’ Well-Being Fluctuations during COVID-19—A Matter of Grade, State, or Trait?
by Eva Lykkegaard, Ane Qvortrup and Casper B. Juul
Educ. Sci. 2024, 14(1), 26; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci14010026 - 25 Dec 2023
Viewed by 1128
Abstract
As part of the large-scale ‘COVID-19, Building Back Better’-project, longitudinal student survey data were collected (n = 774) from four subsequent survey rounds (grade 3–9) in a period with COVID-19 related school closures and re-openings in Denmark (December 2020 to June 2022). [...] Read more.
As part of the large-scale ‘COVID-19, Building Back Better’-project, longitudinal student survey data were collected (n = 774) from four subsequent survey rounds (grade 3–9) in a period with COVID-19 related school closures and re-openings in Denmark (December 2020 to June 2022). Students’ responses to questions related to three well-being dimensions: social, emotional, and academic well-being, were analyzed with factor analysis and latent state-trait analysis to investigate fluctuations in the well-being dimensions across time and the extent to which fluctuations can be attributed to the COVID-19 context (state), individual differences (trait) or simply the natural maturation of students over time (grade). All three well-being dimensions were consistently high (between 3 and 4 out of 5) during the data collection period, however, there was a decrease in emotional well-being and particularly in academic well-being during the period. We show that the size and determinant effects of the fluctuations in the differentiated well-being dimensions differ. Academic well-being generally was the most trait-like dimension, whereas social well-being was more state-like. However, a purposeful analysis of one of the youngest cohorts indicated a critical phase from grade 3–6 corresponding to the time for declines in emotional and academic well-being, where the social well-being shifted from a trait-like to state-like and academic well-being shifted from state-like to trait-like nature. With this in mind, the article discusses how schools can support students’ well-being in the post-pandemic era. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Supporting Wellbeing in Schools in the Post-pandemic Era)
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22 pages, 1932 KiB  
Article
Social and Individual Factors Predicting Students’ Resilience: A Multigroup Structural Equation Model
by Wassilis Kassis, Aikaterini Vasiou, Christos Govaris, Céline Favre, Dilan Aksoy and Ulrike Graf
Educ. Sci. 2024, 14(1), 15; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci14010015 - 22 Dec 2023
Viewed by 1158
Abstract
We investigated students’ resilience predictors during the COVID-19 pandemic. With a two-wave longitudinal sample (n = 713) of students from Greece, Germany, and Switzerland (eighth grade in autumn 2020 and ninth grade in autumn 2021), we determined which social and individual predictors [...] Read more.
We investigated students’ resilience predictors during the COVID-19 pandemic. With a two-wave longitudinal sample (n = 713) of students from Greece, Germany, and Switzerland (eighth grade in autumn 2020 and ninth grade in autumn 2021), we determined which social and individual predictors longitudinally predicted resilience before and during the COVID-19 pandemic. We identified the high likelihood of individual factors (self-esteem, self-efficacy) fostering resilience by social factors (teacher, parents, and social resources). Multigroup structural equation modeling analyses demonstrated that the adolescent population was best typified by two growth trajectory classes: a low-anxiety class characterized by a low initial level of depression/anxiety and a high-anxiety class characterized by a higher initial level of depression/anxiety. The model was gender-, migration-, and country-invariant. Overall, the model showed that teachers overlook adolescents with high anxiety or depression levels, but parents support them more. These findings highlight the necessity to pay attention to students’ depression or anxiety symptoms and to satisfy their basic psychological needs, as vital prerequisites for their meaningful, coherent engagement in modern societies despite the odds. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Supporting Wellbeing in Schools in the Post-pandemic Era)
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15 pages, 278 KiB  
Article
ASPIRE to a Better Future: The Impact of the Pandemic on Young People, and Options for Schools Post-COVID-19
by Sue Roffey
Educ. Sci. 2023, 13(6), 623; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci13060623 - 19 Jun 2023
Viewed by 1979
Abstract
Young people have, in effect, had two years of normality taken from their lives by the pandemic—and for many this has occurred at a crucial time of development. Using the ASPIRE framework of Agency, Safety, Positivity, Inclusion, Respect, and Equity, this paper explores [...] Read more.
Young people have, in effect, had two years of normality taken from their lives by the pandemic—and for many this has occurred at a crucial time of development. Using the ASPIRE framework of Agency, Safety, Positivity, Inclusion, Respect, and Equity, this paper explores what has happened to adolescents in the UK and elsewhere, the impact this may have had on identity formation and establishing a meaningful sense of self, feelings of belonging and safety, mental health, hope for the future, and relationships. Students already facing disadvantages and adversity have been particularly hard hit. School attendance levels are falling, giving rise to further concerns about wellbeing. Referring to each principle, we discuss the options for responding in ways that support a more positive future. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Supporting Wellbeing in Schools in the Post-pandemic Era)

Review

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13 pages, 275 KiB  
Review
Emotionally Based School Avoidance in the Aftermath of the COVID-19 Pandemic: Neurodiversity, Agency and Belonging in School
by Lorna G. Hamilton
Educ. Sci. 2024, 14(2), 156; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci14020156 - 02 Feb 2024
Viewed by 2533
Abstract
Lockdowns at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic led to extended school closures globally, and in many countries school attendance has not recovered to pre-pandemic levels. In England, education leaders have expressed concern both about increased anxiety among pupils and chronic absenteeism post-pandemic, [...] Read more.
Lockdowns at the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic led to extended school closures globally, and in many countries school attendance has not recovered to pre-pandemic levels. In England, education leaders have expressed concern both about increased anxiety among pupils and chronic absenteeism post-pandemic, against a backdrop of over a decade of increasing mental health need among children and young people. This article presents a narrative review with the aims of (a) conceptualising emotionally based school avoidance (EBSA), and (b) identifying strategies for supporting children and young people experiencing psychological barriers to attending school. The underlying reasons for school being experienced as a hostile environment by a minority of pupils are explored, with research findings specifically relating to the school experiences of neurodivergent pupils in mainstream settings included as an illustrative example. The psychological constructs of belongingness and agency are discussed as potential mechanisms of change. Finally, psychologically informed strategies to address EBSA are reviewed, drawing on the framework of multiple systems of support. To reduce absenteeism in pupils experiencing EBSA, and thus avoid exacerbating educational inequalities in disadvantaged groups, it is essential to understand psychological barriers to school attendance and to work collaboratively and compassionately with pupils and families towards solutions. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Supporting Wellbeing in Schools in the Post-pandemic Era)

Other

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8 pages, 219 KiB  
Brief Report
Adaptability and Social Support: Examining Links with Engagement, Burnout, and Wellbeing among Expat Teachers
by Michelle K. Vincent, Andrew J. Holliman and Daniel Waldeck
Educ. Sci. 2024, 14(1), 16; https://doi.org/10.3390/educsci14010016 - 23 Dec 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 894
Abstract
(1) Background: Expatriate (expat) teachers, i.e., those living and working outside of their own country, face several unique challenges. Without sufficient protective resources, these challenges threaten to negatively impact upon their workplace engagement and psychological wellbeing, and lead to burnout. In the present [...] Read more.
(1) Background: Expatriate (expat) teachers, i.e., those living and working outside of their own country, face several unique challenges. Without sufficient protective resources, these challenges threaten to negatively impact upon their workplace engagement and psychological wellbeing, and lead to burnout. In the present study, we utilise the ‘conservation of resources’ (COR) theory to examine the influence of expat teachers’ adaptability (a personal resource) and social support (a conditional/situational resource) on their workplace engagement, burnout, and psychological wellbeing. (2) Methods: A sample of expat teachers (N = 88), mostly working and residing in Middle Eastern countries, completed a series of validated self-report scales to measure each substantive construct. (3) Results: Results revealed that adaptability, but not social support, was a significant positive predictor of both work engagement and psychological wellbeing. There were no significant interaction effects observed. Moreover, neither adaptability nor social support were associated with burnout in this study. Personal resources, such as adaptability, may be more significant determinants of workplace engagement and psychological wellbeing among expat teachers relative to conditional/situational resources, such as social support, according to this research. (4) Conclusions: These findings have important implications for researchers, practitioners, and businesses/organisations, underlining the need to concentrate on strengthening personal resources such as adaptability to improve workplace engagement and psychological wellbeing outcomes among expat teachers. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Supporting Wellbeing in Schools in the Post-pandemic Era)
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