Improving well-being in Welsh schools through international study visits
In response to the growing need to better support staff, pupils and the wider community, Cardiff Council’s International School Linking department established a well-being project for schools across Wales.
In the past, emphasis has been placed more on physical health for school pupils, and significantly less on mental health. This Erasmus+ strategic partnership project is helping to change things for the better, offering education professionals the opportunity to grow and improve the lives of their pupils.
Emily Daly,International School Linking (ISL) department lead, said: “In Wales, improving well-being in our schools is a key focus of the new curriculum, based on Professor Graham Donaldson’s report, Successful Futures, commissioned by the Welsh Government.
"However, we identified a need for schools to work collaboratively across Wales, to develop a pan-Wales approach. Schools are at different stages of their journey, but by working together teachers can support one another to improve teacher competences and raise standards in all participating schools.
“We successfully applied for a consortium bid to run an Erasmus+ strategic partnership project, which provides a two-year training programme for Welsh teachers and headteachers, with partner schools in Finland and Sweden.”
The courses have made a real difference, personally and professionally, with participants bringing ideas and good practice back to the classroom
Emily continued: “We arranged for teachers and headteachers from over 45 schools from across the whole of Wales to attend courses in Finland and Sweden, where they learnt about the education system in these countries and how staff are supported in schools.
"This has been complemented by visits to schools in both regions where teachers and headteachers have had the opportunity to discuss issues surrounding delivery of the curriculum, pressures on staff and roles and responsibilities of headteachers.”
Teachers and educators from Finnish and Swedish local authorities and schools are regular visitors to Wales, as part of a number of strategic partnership projects. “We will be hosting groups from seven projects in early 2020, including a group of Swedish teachers who are coming to look at good practice in Cardiff when supporting children at risk of becoming NEET (Not in Education, Employment or Training),” Emily added.
Emily believes that Erasmus+ offers another dimension to all aspects of education, showing that there is another way of doing things, benefitting professionals on a personal level, in their professional development and contributing to their well-being and job satisfaction.
"The courses have made a real difference, personally and professionally, with participants bringing ideas and good practice back to the classroom," Emily said.
Sharing best practice
Each study visit lasted a week with professionals coming together from across Wales.
Dawn Bennett from Burry Port Community Primary School found the project very beneficial. "I absolutely loved the whole visit. The best part for me was to see the education system at first hand, visiting various schools, speaking to Swedish and Welsh colleagues to share practice and learn from each other," Dawn said.
"The well-being training was great and allowed me time to reflect on myself and my own practice. I have shared the training back in school and we now have transformed the staffroom in line with Lagom, a Swedish term meaning ‘just about enough but not too much’”.
The impact of the project has been extensive, at personal, professional and organisational levels
The great outdoors
Emily said that teachers were particularly impressed with the amount of time children spent outdoors, regardless of the weather conditions, and the quality of resources for outdoor provision.
Shan Kenchington, Headteacher of Mount Street Infants, Brecon, agrees. “In our infant class we are now trialling pupils not wearing shoes inside, just their socks. All pupils then wear wellies out to play and utilise the whole school grounds whatever the weather!”
Shan noted that the project has also led to an improvement in the school’s mental health provision, with all staff being trained in therapeutic workshops and counselling.
Emily added: “Teachers also had the opportunity to take part in activities outside the classroom, such as sensory walks, outdoor cooking and presenting at events, which has already led to many of them making amendments to the curricula.”
Confidence to try new things
“Teachers and headteachers have commented on the positive, personal impact the programme has had. Teachers are feeling more confident to ‘try’ things. This has extended beyond the classroom, into trying new foods and new experiences and the confidence to participate in similar activities in the future," Emily explained.
"I have developed ‘Magic Mondays’ in our school,” said Lynda Jones, from Ysgol Gwynedd, Flint. “Every Monday we take our Year 5 and 6 classes out and about in the local area. We have visited the library, the castle, the fire station, and the local park."
The Erasmus+ impact
“The impact of the project has been extensive, at personal, professional and organisational levels. As a result, we have successfully applied for funding for another strategic partnership project, this time with Spain and Romania, focusing on well-being for headteachers," said Emily.
“Erasmus+ provides unique opportunities for professionals to come together and share experiences and learning and gain an understanding of different cultures. It also provides opportunities to network with other professionals which extends beyond the immediate participants, opening the hearts and minds of professionals and young learners across regions and countries,” Emily concludes.
Read more Erasmus+ stories from schools across the UK!