Dr Susan Carter
Why wellbeing promotion now?
Wellbeing promotion matters. More than ever before, the wellbeing of students, principals and teachers is under pressure around the world (Hascher & Waber, 2021). Around the world governments are expending large amount of money on various initiatives improve mental health and wellbeing. In 2019-2020 Australia invested $11 billion on mental health related services (Australian Institute of Health & Welfare, 2022). In $203.7 million over 2 years from 2022–23 on student wellbeing (Australian Government, 2022, p.96). Mental health cost the United Kingdom economy at least £118 billion a year (The London School of Economic & Political Science, 2023). In 2019 the New Zealand government allocated $1.9 billion to mental health over five years (The Borgen Project, 2021). As such across the globe, mental health and wellbeing promotion has now a become a priority and a major activity of governments.
School communities have a role to play in promoting wellbeing of all students and staff. Research suggests that good mental wellbeing (Deighton et al., 2018; DeSocio & Hootman, 2004; O’Connor et al., 2019) and physical health (Biddle et al., 2019; Donnelly et al., 2016) optimises student academic performance and enhances the ability to cope with the challenges and stressors of daily life (Kaya & Erdem, 2021). Research also shows that teachers who feel better can work and teach better (Bücker, et al, 2018). Research also indicates that wellbeing is central to an educator’s work (Roffey, 2011) and plays a key role in improving leaning outcomes for students (Turner & Theilking, 2019). As such, educational contexts then play an important role in informing choices and deepening understanding of what constitutes good health and wellbeing choices for both students (Aldridge & McChesney, 2018) and adults within the context (Acton & Glasgow, 2015; McCallum, 2020; McCallum & Price, 2015). They also play a part in teaching (Payton et al. (2008), modelling (Sisask et al 2014), promoting and enacting wellbeing (Bonell et al., 2014) and in particular where the connection of learning about health and wellbeing is supported by alignment of action across a whole of school approach (Roffey, 2016).
Wellbeing as an issue
Wellbeing has been identified as a serious issue for principals, teachers and students within educational contexts. Negative impacts to educator wellbeing are now being reported across the globe (Alves et al., 2020; Dabrowski, 2020; Burić et al., 2019). Alarmingly, studies of Australian teachers identified that around almost 75% of teachers reported that they suffered from stress at one time or another, with 20% of educators that reported experiencing stress indicating that the stress was severe or extremely severe which in turn significantly impacted on their wellbeing (NEiTA Foundation Survey, 2021).
In addition, studies by Brady (2020) and Brady and Wilson (2021) fund that educators (school leaders, teachers school and school support staff ) are coping with increased job-related stress resulting from work intensification; increased role complexities (Howes & Goodman-Delahunty, 2015) as a consequence of catering for the needs of an increasingly diverse range of learners; greater consultation with parents; extra communication with colleagues; pressures from frequently changing technology innovations and reform agendas (Gordon, 2020), all within a climate of complexities resulting from COVID-19 Pandemic (Alves, et al., 2020; Dabrowski, 2020). Aa such a worrying picture then emerges for the wellbeing of educators.
Wellbeing has been identified as a serious issue for principals, teachers and students within educational contexts. The problem of principal health and wellbeing has also been recognised at both national and state levels in Australia for the at least a decade and has been acknowledged as an issue of concern by the state, private, and independent school sectors. The first full scale independent study into the occupational health, safety and wellbeing of Australia’s school principals paints a pretty grim picture about the current work conditions for Australia’s school leadership (Riley, 2014). The survey of 2,049 principals found that along with threats and acts of violence, school principals are also more likely to be bullied, and are dealing with ever-increasing volumes of work and health problems due to stress (Riley, 2014). Riley (2014) also reported that, “work related stress was higher in education than across all other industries…with work-related mental ill-health…almost double the rate for all industry” (p. 177-8). This trend appears to be continuing, with another report suggesting that that in Queensland over $10 million has been paid in five years to stressed teachers and that teachers are making more mental stress claims than in any other industry (Acton & Glasgow, 2015). Reducing these impacts of work stress in the teaching profession has been the focus of much research in education. Although historically resilience to stress has been the main focus of studies, research in the area has recently shifted towards the school wide promotion of wellbeing (Powell & Graham, 2017).
Why this TEXT
This text endeavours to focus on wellbeing promotion in educational contexts as schools and other educational contexts play a pivotal role in teaching students about nonviolence, promoting understanding of diversity, endowing people with a shared purpose and meaning and the skills and behaviours to create a more inclusive, healthy, and positive future (Niemi et al., 2018). Weare (2013) affirms the words of Maslow (1970), stating that there is significantly important to satisfy an individual’s social emotional needs before concentrating on the academic needs. Australian Jurisdiction Departments of Education reiterate the importance of catering for an individual’s needs, posing that students learn best in environments where their social, emotional and physical wellbeing is nurtured. So how do we do this?
To generate real educational context community purpose there needs to be a shared understanding of purpose, a clear vision and a common language around established ways of working that positively contribute to building a safe, inclusive culture where wellbeing is fore fronted. At the start of each chapter we posed guiding questions for you to consider. In chapter one we outline a possible way of meaning making using the text; chapter two explores some theoretical conceptualisations of wellbeing (guiding question: what is wellbeing?); chapter three presents policy, frameworks and legislation that has informed the focus on wellbeing (guiding question: how is wellbeing enacted?); chapter four outlines possible impactors and enablers to wellbeing (guiding question: how is wellbeing enhanced?); chapter five explores embedding an education wide focus on wellbeing (guiding question: how is wellbeing enacted and embedded?) and the final chapter, chapter six, explores the ecological and contextual analysis of wellbeing in relation to a workplace wellbeing framework (guiding question: how can wellbeing be enacted and promoted in my context?).
Acknowledgement of country
In the spirit of reconciliation, the authors wish to acknowledge the Giabal and Jarowair peoples of the Toowoomba area, the Jagera, Yuggera and Ugarapul peoples of Ipswich and Springfield, the Kambuwal peoples of Stanthorpe and the Gadigal peoples of the Eora nation, Sydney as the keepers of ancient knowledge where USQ campuses and hubs have been built and whose cultures and customs continue to nurture this land. As authors, we acknowledge the cultural diversity of all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples and pay respect to Elders past, present and future. We celebrate the continuous living cultures of First Australians and acknowledge the important contributions Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people have and continue to make in Australian society. The authors wrote this textbook on the lands of the Giabal and Jarowair peoples of the Toowoomba area.
We sincerely thank Adrian Stagg, Manager (Open Educational Practice), Program Quality and Enhancement at the University of Southern Queensland who encouraged and guided us to publish our on-line textbook. His support and problem-solving skills have been greatly appreciated as he helped bring the project to fruition. We also thank the Media Design and Development (MDD) team at the University of Southern Queensland, who helped us to create some of the media images used in this text. The kindness of colleagues has also been greatly appreciated as many people as possible especially Melissa Fanshawe, took the time to provide feedback on images that we were considering for the book. Thank you to everyone who helped us in our journey to embrace the Press Books platform so that we could help realise our vision of providing an open, free, easily accessible textbook.
About the Authors
Susan Carter is both an educational leader and an academic. She has been an educator in schools for over 25 years in a variety of roles: teacher; teaching principal; deputy principal; principal of a P-10 schools; and as a principal of a large rural school. She has studied, education and two Master of Education degrees: one in special education, and the other in education theology. Her PhD research was in the area of how school Principals maintain their Subjective Well-Being. Her current research interests include subjective well-being (SWB) in educational contexts; inclusion; social justice and school leadership.
Susan can be contacted by email: Susan.Carter@usq.edu.au
Cecily Andersen is an experienced educational leader. She has been an educator for over 40 years across a variety of roles: teaching, school leadership and district and regional educational leadership, within primary, secondary, inclusive education and Indigenous community settings across remote, rural and regional areas. Cecily Andersen’s research interests include social justice, wellbeing, leadership in complex contexts, and how school leaders use coaching and mentoring to build capacity in others.
Cecily can be contacted by email: Cecily.Andersen@usq.edu.au
Within the wellbeing literature, there is a shared view that educational contexts are best positioned to reach out to everyone and explicitly teach and promote wellbeing, potentially arresting trends of reported declining student and teacher wellbeing (Acton & Glasgow, 2015; Hogan et al., 2018), principal wellbeing (Riley, 2014), or of feeling of not belonging (Allen et al., 2018; Seligman et al., 2009). There is, however, a lack of consensus as to the application and delivery of wellbeing programs within educational systems and educational contexts (Powell & Graham, 2017) and it is in this space that we hope to make worthwhile contribution.
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