Reimagining Pupil Wellbeing

It is no longer enough to assume that the school or teacher or parent or child is responsible for maintaining positive mental health and wellbeing. It needs to permeate across the school and home environment, and everyone needs to share the responsibility and speak the same language.

Zeena Hicks

3/21/20237 min read


Pupil wellbeing is now a major concern in education. It's become common for teachers and heads to be trained in mental health first aid, and for schools to invest in counselling services or mindfulness classes, but the focus on pupil wellbeing is often limited to introducing students to these resources, rather than how we use them as a whole. What appears to be lacking across the board is a colligate approach to wellbeing which involves the parents and the teachers walking the walk. It is time to refocus our direction towards mental health and wellbeing and take this opportunity to reimagine how we can better support adults as the key to promoting positive emotional health in pupils while they're at school—and beyond.

We already know that pupils with stronger health and wellbeing are more likely to achieve better academic results, and that school culture, ethos and environment have an impact on the health and wellbeing of pupils and their readiness to learn (1). We are also aware that family wellbeing provides a foundation for positive parenting and child wellbeing (2). Why is it then that we are spending most of our time and resources on ‘fixing’ our young people’s declining mental health without tackling adult wellbeing first?

Barriers to Pupil Wellbeing

On 20 March, the Education Committee in the UK announced the launch of a new inquiry which in part will investigate the driving factors behind chronic teacher shortages. 2021 recorded the highest number of vacancies in 11 years, with schools stating staff “stress levels and absence were high” and highlighting “loss of key staff through resignation, ill health or otherwise” (3).  Earlier in March 2023 over 50% of schools closed or had restricted attendance due to National Education Union (NEU) teacher strikes over pay.  These stories are not unique. 

Reports from the US describe teacher shortages due to the ‘toll of burnout’ (4). UNESCO sounded the alarm at the end of 2022 on a global teacher shortage, with reasons for teacher attrition including heavy workloads, lack of autonomy, poor financial incentives and shortage of teaching resources (5). The effect of these disturbances on young people may never be fully quantified, but there is certainty that pupils across the globe will negatively feel the impact in a variety of ways.

It is not only teachers who share the responsibility of maintaining a positive nurturing environment for young people to flourish. Between 17-28% of families worldwide will have a parent experiencing mental health challenges, and children are more at risk of poor mental health if their parent lacks positive wellbeing (6). Unlike teaching, there is no formal training, qualification or manual to become a parent. In fact, even teacher training traditionally focuses on the attainment of the child extrinsically to the educator. So, how can we start to unpick these barriers?

Whole school communities taking an active role in the wellbeing of each child

It is no longer enough to assume that the school or teacher or parent or child is responsible for maintaining positive mental health and wellbeing. It needs to permeate across the school and home environment, and everyone needs to share the responsibility and speak the same language. It may be futile to teach mindfulness and other wellbeing strategies in schools if the parents don’t know what these are, or how to practise these strategies at home. 

Often parents are given feedback on the behaviour of their child from school, without being offered tangible tools to help themselves and their child. This ends up just accentuating a loop of poor behaviour and attainment as parent, teacher and child navigate around the blame game. 

The parent equally has a responsibility to inform the school of any potential concerns that might be impacting the pupil within the home environment. This could include things like sibling rivalry, an ill relative, friendship conflicts, parent separation, a family pet dying etc. Lack of communication and support around these concerns could develop into deeper rooted behaviours and outcomes on non-related events. If these potential upsets are picked up early the right support could be identified to minimise the disruption and disturbance to all involved. 

Walk the walk by modelling positive mental health 

Positive psychology is an umbrella term for the study of positive emotions, character strengths, psychological wellbeing, and what makes life most worth living (7). It provides a suite of evidence-based practices, which promote strong mental health, increase autonomy, resilience, hope, optimism and purpose, and build positive relationships. Positive wellbeing, self-care and resilience go hand-in-hand. 

Children and teenagers' natural instinct is to copy behaviours, and we believe that pupils are inspired to create positive habits when they see their teachers and parents engaging, taking an active role in their mental health and wellbeing, and staying healthy. With a spotlight on applied positive psychology and building positive habits, we have put together some tips to help guide you towards increasing your awareness and reconnecting with what is good, so you can show up in the best way for young people you are in touch with today.

Pause: Create a pause several times during your day to check in with yourself. How aware are you of yourself and your surroundings? How are you feeling? Adults spend much of their time in a process of automation, as it is deemed to be more efficient; but when your thoughts, feelings and behaviours are in an unconscious loop, you may not be showing up in the best way for yourself or your pupils/children. Instead of being numb to how you are feeling, or leaning into negative feelings, set an intention as to how you would like to feel, and spend your day focusing on a better feeling option.

Breathe: Adults are incredibly good at forgetting to breathe, especially in stressful or worrying situations. Take three minutes, twice a day, to focus solely on the simple action of breathing in and out through your nose. Notice the mechanics of the breath entering and leaving your body. Where does the breath go? How does your body move? Can you feel any tension or mild hurt anywhere in your body as you do this? Breathing through your nose can increase the quality of your oxygen intake by up to 20% and filters out many nasties in the process, making it much better for your health and wellbeing (8).

Be curious: The adult brain and the child's brain sees and processes things very differently. As carers and educators, we often feel that it is our job to share and impart our knowledge, skills and learnings with others (and this isn’t only with young people, we do it with family, colleagues and friends). Today and every day make a conscious effort to become a learner, rather than a knower with others, so you can start to understand a little better the way in which they see the world and situations. Ask questions, check to understand, and consider exploring a different perspective.

Be Present: Combine these three techniques above to practise being present, and notice any themes throughout your day that drive your emotional or behavioural responses. Without judging yourself or others in the process, reflect on what else might be happening around you during emotive situations. Consider three ways you could perceive this experience before choosing to respond. If you need to, remove yourself from the situation, even just momentarily to give yourself time to look for the good before reconnecting.


We can start to reimagine pupil wellbeing by paying more attention to teacher and parent wellbeing. This way we can take some sustainable steps to combat the rising concerns around pupil mental health. It needs to be a collaborative approach with parents, teachers and pupils working closely together and using the same positive language. A child’s mind processes and perceives information very differently from an adult, and they will unconsciously model those close to them. In the same way that adults are encouraged to put their oxygen masks on first on a plane, before attending to their children, we have a responsibility to ourselves and others to look after ‘self’ first.

If you are looking for any further information on how to better support children or pupils through prioritising your own mental health and wellbeing, get in touch with us on

What teachers have said following our INSET training:

“This training is an excellent way to learn how to step back from negative thought patterns - to help oneself and those we have contact with daily.”

“Awesome. Teachers need INSETS that support them as people not just about school”

“A super boost to get everyone started at the start of term”

“We must make it personal for staff before setting it up as a process for pupils”

“Good opportunity to self-reflect, set goals, check how judgemental you are in situations. Empower your students”

“Great for helping you to reflect on yourself and take stock. We all need to be reminded to do this. It makes you really think about the thoughts, feelings and behaviours are linked, in addition, how you will use this for positive change.” 

“A rare opportunity to focus on self in inset which ultimately benefits all win win!”

What our parents say:

“I can’t thank you enough for giving me back my life! I always knew there was something inside me that needed to shine, but I just couldn’t access it because of my mental clutter. I feel now the world is mine to make what I want with it. I hadn’t fully realised the impact I was having on others, but my kids are doing great now in school and Dan and I have rekindled something that we haven’t seen in years. Thank you, thank you, thank you.” – Rosie

Paul told me that he really enjoys your sessions and finds them helpful. It's great that he is benefiting from coaching and I definitely feel that he seems happier and calmer. The sessions have made a big difference to Paul's confidence and self-belief. And he enjoys them! Thank you- Clare 

Thank you for all the work you are doing and for the feedback. The sessions have been extremely useful, especially considering what was happening at school with some of the other students. Victor has spoken more openly with teachers about how he has been feeling and I believe he is gaining confidence in class due to your techniques. I also see that he is starting to be more aware of his choices.”  - Beatrice 


  1. Public Health England. (2014). The link between pupil health and wellbeing and attainment A briefing for head teachers, governors and staff in education settings.

  2. Lisa A. Newland (2015) Family well‐being, parenting, and child well‐being: Pathways to healthy adjustment, Clinical Psychologist, 19:1, 3-14, DOI: 10.1111/cp.12059

  3. Supply teacher bills leap as staffing shortages rock schools. (2023, January 12).

  4. Wong, A. (n.d.). Overworked, underpaid? The toll of burnout is contributing to teacher shortages nationwide. USA TODAY. Retrieved March 21, 2023, from

  5. The shortage of teachers is a global crisis: How can we curb it? | Blog | Global Partnership for Education. (n.d.).

  6. Sell, M., Radicke, A., Adema, B., Daubmann, A., Kilian, R., Stiawa, M., ... & Wiegand-Grefe, S. (2021). Parents With Mental Illness: Parental Coping Behavior and Its Association With Children's Mental Health. Frontiers in Psychiatry, 1797.

  7. Seligman, M. E., & Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2000). Positive psychology: An introduction (Vol. 55, No. 1, p. 5). American Psychological Association.

  8. Cottle, M. H. (1972). The work, ways, positions and patterns of nasal breathing (relevance in heart and lung illness). Proceedings of the American Rhinologic Society, 377-385.