What makes kids happy at school


Positive education brings together the science of positive psychology with best practice teaching programs to not only help kids to flourish at school, but also to support their families and the wider school community. Kids who are emotionally well learn more effectively and perform better academically.

School can play a big role in the emotional wellbeing of students if well-researched and well-designed positive education programs are established and incorporated into daily life, school-wide. Lucky for us, Australia is a global leader in the establishment of school-based positive education programs.

Revolution School: a positive education case study

Revolution School, which aired on ABC TV, is the story of Kambrya College, an outer suburban high school in Melbourne. Kambrya College sat in the bottom 10 per cent of schools based on academic performance in 2008, but now sits in the top 25 per cent.

A key component of this major improvement was a positive education program focusing on student wellbeing. And we’re not just talking about traditional pastoral care and onsite counselling. Positive education is about teaching kids skills to improve resilience, mindfulness and self awareness. It’s about encouraging a growth mindset, helping them to know and to use their strengths, to develop empathy and to look after their mental wellbeing.

Read more about: Why mindfulness for kids is more than just a buzzword


Positive school climate

Resilience, mindfulness and self-awareness are key components of what’s known as a positive school climate – a school environment that, as well as being safe and clean with high quality teaching practices, emphasises relationships, communication, wellbeing and respect.

I chose the local public primary school for my kids, not based on its MySchool ranking or NAPLAN results, but because I could see that the actions of the Principal through to the littlest kids embodied the school values of care, excellence, community and respect. This is not a posh school in a well-to-do area. This is a local primary school in a regional city with a diverse population,but there is a vibe of positivity about the school that infects everyone.

Positive education - what makes kids happy at school

The signs of a positive school

•  Happy engaged kids. Do the kids look like they’re having fun in the school yard and classroom? Do they look interested and engaged?

•  Happy engaged teachers. Are the teachers keen to meet you and to discuss and involve you in school activities? Are they excited about teaching and what’s happening at the school?

•  The wider school community (parents, teachers, other staff). Are they vibrant, friendly and welcoming? Does the principal interact with the children?

•  Kindness and respect. Do the students, teachers and other staff treat each other with kindness and respect?

Science is now supporting what perhaps many of us know intuitively (and teachers’ know through experience): there is a lot more to schooling than academics. A good school can teach your kids to read and write, but a positive school will help them to flourish.

What appealed to you about your kids’ school? Does your school practice positive education?

Image by Church of the King / Unsplash

Written by Ellen Jackson

Ellen Jackson from Potential Psychology is a psychologist who does things differently. She writes about everyday people and why we do what we do. When she’s not tapping at the laptop she coaches, she teaches and she helps workplaces to solve their people problems. Ellen has been making online friends since before the internet had pictures. You can join her tribe on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn.

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