Guidance to Support the Wellbeing of School Communities
Last updated on
Last updated on
We have seen huge progress and developments in Ireland and internationally in the fight against Covid-19 and we continue to adapt on a daily basis to living with Covid. Families and school communities experienced challenges in the run up to Christmas and during the holidays as we grappled with the latest wave of Covid-19 and the implementation of public health measure. As schools reopen we face new challenges but recognise the importance to our children and young people of in-school teaching and learning in a supportive school environment.
Although we may all be feeling a little jaded from Covid-19, people have an inbuilt capacity to adapt. This is what is at the heart of resilience. Most of us have weathered this storm and emerged stronger and with new skills. But for some of us, adapting and managing the challenges is hard. We have taken steps to support our wellbeing during this time and we need to continue to focus on supporting our wellbeing as this journey continues.
Starting the New Year: Supporting the Wellbeing of School Communities: Guidance for Schools
Promoting the wellbeing of our school communities is a fundamental element of the Department’s overall plan to support the successful return to school. We all acknowledge the significant national contribution that has been made by schools over these last few years, contributing a sense of calm and stability to families in Ireland. We start this new year, with children and young people and school staff looking forward to reconnecting with each other and settling back into school life again. Naturally some of us may feel apprehensive about going back to school, which is normal and to be expected. The guidance and supports set out here provides information on the overall approach to the continued support of the wellbeing of school communities and can be adapted by schools as they continue on this journey.
Supporting a successful settling back into school after the Christmas break is best achieved when those within the school community feel safe, calm and hopeful, when they feel a sense of belonging and connectedness to their school community and feel that they can manage with the support of their community. Fostering resilience can be helped by using these five key principles:
Figure 1: Key Goals for the School Community
As schools reopen they will continue to have rules and routines to adhere to keep everyone safe. All schools are different and each school will know how best to support the transition back to school after the holidays within their own school. It is important that schools adopt a whole-school approach to supporting the successful transition back to school.
The Continuum of Support framework supports a whole-school approach to managing the return to school and helps to ensure that staff, students and parents feel welcome, safe and secure. It also recognises that some students will require more targeted intervention and planning to help them reconnect with their school community and re-engage with learning.
At a universal level a whole school response is required to support the wellbeing of all within the school community as we settle back into school. This response encompasses the following elements:
Schools have been provided with practical guidance and support around safety measures that need to be in place in order to support safety in school for all. Understanding the importance of the safety measures that need to be in place requires clear messaging and awareness-raising among school staff, parent and students that these measures continue to be in place. Younger children or those with special educational or additional needs may benefit from developmentally appropriate language and visual support to remind them of the rules for staying safe at school. They may also need opportunities to practice the safety measures and routines as they settle back into school.
In addition to students wearing face masks/coverings at post primary, from the 1st of December 2021 NPHET recommended the wearing of face masks/coverings by children in 3rd class and above in primary schools and the Government accepted that recommendation. NEPS has developed advice on supporting children with wearing face coverings in primary schools which includes a sample story-based script about wearing a mask, see here .
It may take a few days for staff and students to adjust to being back in school and to be ready and available to fully engage with teaching and learning. Time spent on settling the students and getting the students ready for learning before focusing on formal teaching and learning will yield positive outcomes and will likely reduce stress for all . It may also be useful to remember the following:
Key messages that will support the wellbeing of the school community at this time include:
Some students and their families may need additional help to settle back into school after the Christmas break. It is important to take notice of and plan to support students who don’t settle after an initial period, despite having had access to universal support.
Students who struggle to settle back into school may require support that is in addition to the universal wellbeing supports being provided for all students. These may include those who:
For some of these students their needs may have emerged during the pandemic, while some others may have had existing needs. These students may find the return to school challenging and require additional support to help them to once again adjust to the school’s routines and rules. Student support plans should be developed in collaboration with parents to identify current strengths and needs and enhance the effectiveness of intervention planning. For those students unable to return to school immediately (e.g. due to health concerns), ongoing distant learning supports will be required.
For students who continue to struggle the following approaches may be helpful:
Further suggestions are available in the Wellbeing Toolkits below.
Schools will continue to be supported by the provision of a range of further guidance and support from DES Support Services and agencies , the Tusla Education Support Service (TESS) and HSE Services. These are available on the gov.ie/backtoschool webpage.
It is especially important that adults in the school are proactive and look after their own wellbeing. Student wellbeing is influenced by the wellbeing of the adults around them. Students pick up on the stress of others so it is important that adults model positive ways of coping with the return to school.
The Department recognises the need for school staff wellbeing and collective self-care. An Occupational Health Strategy is in place as a supportive resource for staff in schools. The aim of the Occupational Health Strategy is to promote the health and wellbeing of employees in the workplace, with a strong focus on prevention. The Occupational Health Strategy comprises the Employee Assistance Service and the Occupational Health Service. The Employee Assistance Service (EAS) is provided by Spectrum.life. They are providing this support under the banner of ‘Wellbeing Together: Folláinne Le Chéile’.
Under the EAS, employees have a dedicated free-phone confidential helpline 1800 411 057 available 24 hours a day, 365 days a year providing advice on a range of issues such as wellbeing, legal, financial, mediation, management support etc. Where required, short-term counselling is available to employees and their families (over the age of 18 years and living at home). A bespoke wellbeing portal and app which offers access to podcasts and blogs on topics around wellbeing and mental health, family life, exercise and nutrition is also available. In addition online cognitive behavioural therapy is provided. Spectrum.life will also be providing a series of webinars and presentations to promote staff wellbeing in schools during the school year. Additional support for school staff wellbeing is also available from the Department’s support services including the Professional Development Service for Teachers (PDST) and the Centre for School Leadership (CSL), as well as by the HSE’s Health Promotion Team.
You may also find the tips and reminders in the following resource developed by NEPS useful:
Within the schools’ setting school staff will benefit from:
Parents/carers will benefit from clear messages about:
It is important to remember to provide ongoing opportunities for the voices of the children/ young people in a school to be heard, and responded to in a meaningful way.
Students will benefit from clear messages, communicated in a meaningful and developmentally appropriate way, about:
The foundation for the provision of a continuum of support in schools is the provision of support for school staff wellbeing, and guidance to help school staff to feel confident and equipped to support the wellbeing of their students. The Department of Education’s National Educational Psychological Service (NEPS) psychologists have developed the following advice and resources for parents, students and school staff. The Department has also worked closely with its broad range of support services and agencies, and with the HSE/HSE-funded services and the Tusla Education Support Service to create an aligned and coherent package of supports and resources to assist schools in this regard.
Primary parent advice is available Item was unpublished or removed
Item was unpublished or removed
From the 1st of December 2021 NPHET recommended the wearing of face masks/coverings by children in 3rd class and above in primary schools and the Government accepted that recommendation. NEPS has developed advice on supporting children with wearing face coverings in primary schools which includes a sample story-based script about wearing a mask, see here .
The following information can help you to support your child if they experience difficulty.
Post-primary parent advice is available Item was unpublished or removed
Item was unpublished or removed
People have an inbuilt capacity to adapt. This is what is at the heart of resilience. Most children and young people will have weathered this storm and emerged stronger and with new skills. But for some, adapting and managing the challenges has been hard. The links below can take you to wellbeing resources and supports that you may find useful in supporting your students during this school year.
From the 1st of December 2021, NPHET recommended the wearing of face masks/coverings by children in 3rd class and above in primary schools and the Government accepted that recommendation. NEPS has developed advice on supporting children with wearing face coverings in primary schools
The following resources will help you to support students for the rest of the school year.
Supporting Bereaved Students and Staff Returning to School following COVID-19 and Public Health Restrictions: Information Booklet for Schools
Responding to Critical Incidents during COVID-19 Information Booklet for Schools
Primary, Post Primary
There are steps that you can take to support your wellbeing during this time. It will help to:
Our sense of wellbeing can be improved by taking time to reflect on some of the following:
There are a number of supports available to you both in school and outside of school.
At school there is a Student Support Team which includes the principal or deputy principal, the guidance counsellor the special education needs coordinator. They are available if you need assistance or support.
There are lots of supports for young people outside of school. The support offered by the agencies listed below, and at this link Mental Health and Wellbeing Information Leaflet are for students who are feeling worried or anxious about various issues.
BeLonG To Youth Services
Online counselling supports
www.mymind.org provides access to counselling and psychotherapy, face to face and online
GP and health centres
Find a service near you
Hospital emergency services
Telephone emergency services
Messaging support service
Wellbeing policy statement and framework for practice