Positive Education: how parent and teacher wellbeing affects pupil wellbeing

Tamara Judge


Pupil wellbeing is an extremely important factor in the educational environment. Pupil wellbeing affects their academic performance and can lead to better mental health amongst children. It is also important for teachers, who are the first line of defence when it comes to recognising signs of poor mental health amongst their pupils. Research suggests that there is a significant relationship between pupil well-being, teacher well-being and parent well-being; so what does this mean and what can we do about it?

Why is pupil wellbeing important?

Pupil wellbeing is the state of being happy, healthy and safe at school. This means that children are able to access the services and support they need in order to learn and grow; as well as feeling safe from harm or mistreatment.

Pupil wellbeing is important because it has been proven to impact their ability to learn effectively; both academically and socially – if a child isn’t happy or satisfied with their surroundings then this can hinder their ability to learn new things or even find enjoyment in doing so.

It also impacts how well children sleep at night which directly affects their ability to function during the daytime hours when they need certain amounts of rest before being able to concentrate fully on lessons again later!

Why is teacher wellbeing important?

As you may know, teachers are role models for pupils. They are seen as the authority figures who set the tone for school life at every level. In this way, it's imperative that they feel happy in their jobs and have a positive outlook on teaching - but what happens when this isn't the case?

Wellbeing can be defined as ‘a state of physical, mental and social wellbeing’. When teachers don't feel content with their jobs or find them stressful, not only does this impact on their own happiness but also on that of students. Research has found that students perform better at school when they have positive relationships with teachers (Leone & Wang, 2011).

This means that if teachers aren't feeling good about themselves or their job, then they won't come across well in lessons - which could potentially lead to lower grades and reduced motivation among pupils.

Teachers need to be healthy in order to be able to provide a supportive environment for their pupils. Pupils learn through social interaction and experience, not just knowledge transfer. Social interaction and learning in the classroom of a stressed, overwhelmed, unsupported teacher will be different from that of a supported teacher with a strong sense of professional autonomy, self-efficacy and high levels of wellbeing.

Why is parent wellbeing important?

A common cause of stress and anxiety in children is when there is discontentment at home, or the relationship between the parents is an unhappy one. In a study by Jennifer Maguire and colleagues, parents were asked to report how often they felt stressed and how much they agreed or disagreed with statements such as “I feel like I am on top of things”, “I get angry easily” or “I worry about money”.

The researchers found that there was a strong positive correlation between parent mental health and child behaviour – but only when parents had low levels of stress or negative feelings. In contrast, when parents had high levels of stress or negative feelings their children were likely to display higher levels of aggressive behaviour.

This is just one example of the link between parental wellbeing and pupil wellbeing. In our own work with young people and schools, we have observed that pupil anxiety and stress are just as likely to be caused by overheard (and often misinterpreted) conversations between parents or parents and teachers as it is by social and academic difficulties.

What is the relationship between pupil, teacher and parent wellbeing?

One of the key challenges we see is a disconnect between parents, schools and young people, despite research showing that pupil wellbeing is directly linked to both staff wellbeing and parent wellbeing. If children’s wellbeing is impacted by friction or conflict, then we have to work to ensure that the relationship between teachers and parents is a positive and collaborative one.

As you can see, the relationships between the three types of wellbeing are complex and interrelated, but there are ways that schools can help improve their pupils’, teachers’ and parents’ health and happiness in order to improve outcomes for everyone involved.

How can schools improve pupil, teacher and parent wellbeing?

We believe that creating a closer bond between home and school, and improving teachers’ and parents’ health and happiness is central to improving pupil wellbeing and outcomes.

Schools can start to develop this closer bond by considering:

  • How they could communicate more effectively, respectfully and meaningfully, without adding to the workload of teachers.

  • How they welcome and support families to create a sense of belonging at school.

  • How they ensure clarity, continuity and equity in their academic and behavioural expectations.

Parents can start to develop this closer bond by considering:

  • How they could communicate more effectively, respectfully and meaningfully, without adding to the workload of teachers.

  • How they engage with and support the school and their policies.

  • What additional support they could benefit from, or offer, to the school to improve everyone’s wellbeing.

We provide training and coaching for all staff, parents and pupils, to help schools and educational organisations develop a shared language and embed practical strategies both at school and at home to improve self-esteem, relationships, mindset, resilience, wellbeing and engagement. This approach allows all adults to experience the interventions for themselves and also consider how they can use these strategies to support their children effectively.