Cymraeg

Hwb

Supporting physical and mental well-being through distance learning

The Stay Safe. Stay Learning: Continuity of learning policy statement acknowledges that COVID-19 presents real and pressing challenges to the health and well-being of both adults and children.

The risk of infection, the prospect of bereavement and restrictions on leaving home place strains on our physical and mental health and our relationships. Children in particular may struggle with lack of routine, disruption to their learning and isolation from friends.

The policy statement identifies the priorities of the Welsh Government, and all its partners across the education system, during this period when most learners are not able to attend schools and settings in person. A key priority will be to support the physical and mental health and well-being of all our learners and our education workforce.

The advice in this section is designed to provide a framework to headteachers, teachers, teaching assistants of schools and settings on supporting physical and mental well-being during this time of unprecedented change and disruption.

For the purposes of the advice in this section ‘education settings’ includes schools, funded non-maintained early years settings, pupil referral units (PRUs) and other providers of education other than at school (EOTAS).

This advice is built around the Five Ways to Wellbeing. The model was developed by the New Economics Foundation (NEF) and is already used by the NHS and MIND.

In 2008, the NEF reviewed over 400 scientific papers to identify key things that contribute to our well-being that could be used by individuals as a way of incorporating well-being into their everyday lives. The five key actions identified were around the themes of social relationships, physical activity, awareness, learning and giving. A combination of all these behaviours will help to enhance individual well-being and can provide a broad structure for building daily routine.

Connect

Positive relationships are important for our mental well-being. They can help build a sense of belonging. They can provide opportunities for sharing experiences and enable the giving and receiving of emotional support. Education settings are deeply social places. Finding opportunities for staff and learners to continue to connect with each other, should be a high priority during this period of education setting closures and social distancing.

Be active

Being physically active is not only good for our physical health and fitness, evidence shows that it can also improve our mental well-being. A regular day in a school or setting includes plenty of opportunity for learners to be physically active including travelling to and from settings, moving between classes or activities, break times and PE lessons. Therefore, providing opportunities to encourage movement throughout the day and physical activity needs to be given careful consideration.

Notice

Noticing what is happening in the ‘here and now’ can help us stop worrying about things beyond our control which is good for our mental well-being. Being aware of the present can include: using the five senses to enhance our awareness of the world around us and taking time to consider how we are feeling both physically and emotionally.

Keep learning

Learning something new or getting better at something can give us a sense of purpose and achievement, which is good for mental well-being. In this current period of education setting closures, it may be hard for some learners to remain motivated. Creativity and flexibility are more important than ever when planning learning.

Giving

Regularly committing an act of kindness and ‘giving back’ can improve well-being for individuals and their wider community. The importance of encouraging and suggesting ways that your learners can carry out acts of kindness should not be underestimated.

  • A feeling of belonging and connectedness are key drivers of well-being.

    Education settings are deeply social places and therefore play a vital part in developing a sense of belonging and connectedness in their learners. This happens in multiple interactions throughout a day in a school or setting and not just in the classroom. Education settings actively contribute to a sense of belonging and connectedness in a number of ways including:

    • by nurturing both positive peer relationships and those between staff and learners
    • by ensuring learners feel valued, listened to and heard
    • by giving learners opportunities to work collaboratively, in purposeful learning
    • by developing a sense of community.

    During the current period of education setting closures, one of the most powerful things that settings can do to promote well-being is help their learners feel that they still belong to, and are connected with, their learning community. While staying connected is universally beneficial for all learners, some learners or groups of learners may need this more than others.

    Maintaining relationships and promoting connections during education setting closures will also support learners with their return to formal education provision.

    Key considerations

    Staying connected is not the same as making contact. At the heart of staying connected is promoting the sense of belonging and nurturing relationships.

    Education settings should make every effort to engage equitably with all their learners and find a variety of ways to connect with them, offline as well as online. Staying connected with vulnerable and disadvantaged learners is particularly important during this time.

    Online tools provided on Hwb are one mechanism for promoting togetherness during school closures. These tools provide the flexibility to adapt and differentiate your approach when planning opportunities for learners to work, share, interact and learn together.

    Careful consideration needs to be given to the way that any online interactions are facilitated. Schools should adhere to their safeguarding policies and follow Welsh Government guidance on livestreaming safeguarding principles and practice for education practitioner.

    Full guidance on how to use the different Hwb tools that can be used to support connecting and collaboration.

    How can we help learners stay connected with different adults in our education setting?

    During a day in a school or setting, learners will have multiple interactions with a range of adults. Finding ways to maintain these connections and relationships will support the well-being of learners.

    Some examples include:

    • sending pre-recorded video messages from a variety of adults, e.g. headteacher, teacher, form tutor, support staff and wider auxiliary staff
    • creating screen recordings to accompany work set to make the teacher ‘present’
    • recording comments and feedback on completed tasks/assignments
    • providing opportunities for collective activities such as assemblies, reading aloud poems and stories
    • personalised messages through text or other existing communication channels
    • telephone calls
    • sending letters, postcards, birthday cards, etc.

    Providing opportunities which encourage learners to respond to these interactions will help them feel ‘connected’ and not just ‘contacted’.

    As this term progresses, education settings should think about how they can support the building of new relationships for the autumn term.

    How can we help our learners to stay connected with each other?

    During a day in a school or setting, learners will have multiple interactions with their peers. Finding ways to maintain these connections and relationships will support the well-being of learners.

    While many learners may have stayed in touch with their immediate friends, they may be missing some of these wider interactions.

    Some examples include:

    • providing opportunities for learners to connect with each other socially, both online and offline. Remember that learners may belong to a number of groups in school beyond their class, e.g. sport teams, extra-curricular clubs, pupil-voice groups
    • encouraging learners to share their experiences relating to the Five Ways to Wellbeing, for example:
      • how are they connecting with others?
      • how have they been keeping physically active?
      • what have they noticed about how they are feeling?
      • have they learnt something new?
      • what have they done to be kind to others?
    • sharing collective memories, e.g. pictures of school trips, old class photos, sporting events, school plays and celebrations, etc.

    How can we help our learners connect through purposeful and collaborative activities?

    During a day in a school or setting, learners will have many opportunities to collaborate with each other. Finding creative ways to provide these opportunities during this time of education setting closures will help to support the well-being of learners.

    Some examples include:

    • setting activities that encourage groups of learners to work collaboratively using sharing functions within Hwb tools
    • providing opportunities for learners to see and positively respond to each other’s learning experiences, both setting assigned and self-directed activities
    • providing opportunities for learners to contribute towards a class generated piece of work, e.g. presentation, artwork, photo collage
    • encouraging learners to discuss their tasks/activities through Hwb-supported virtual classrooms.

    Collaborative group activities allow learners to feel a sense of community and can help to provide them with a sense of purpose and motivation to complete tasks. However, it is important for teachers to consider carefully how any collaborative tasks are set up so that they are inclusive. Teachers should make every effort to ensure that their approach does not disadvantage learners who may be unable, or are reluctant, to participate for a variety of reasons.

    How can we help our learners feel valued, listened to and heard?

    During a day in a school or setting learners will have many opportunities to voice their opinions and listen to those of others. Finding ways to maintain these opportunities will support the well-being of learners.

    Some examples include:

    • providing feedback which makes the learner feel that they are valued, listened to and heard. This could be done through including clear reference to personal qualities and attributes of the learner
    • providing opportunities for learners to share their ideas, thoughts, views, offer feedback, asks questions
    • collecting learners’ thoughts on ‘what next’ for their learning
    • finding opportunities to celebrate every learner.
  • Being physically active is not only good for physical health and fitness; evidence shows that it is also good for mental well-being. A week in a school or setting includes plenty of opportunity for learners to be physically active including: travelling to and from educational settings, moving between classes or activities, learning through play, break times, PE lessons and extra-curricular activities.

    During this period of distance learning, practitioners need to encourage opportunities for physical activity and movement throughout the day. 

    Physical activity keeps learners fit, boosts energy levels and improves the quality of sleep. It also improves how learners feel and can help to promote a positive attitude and outlook, relieving stress and anxiety. Without regular activity, learners may lose strength, stamina, confidence and may find it harder to concentrate.

    Key considerations  

    Encourage all learners to be active throughout the day by ensuring that opportunities to move and to be physically active are built into a broad range of learning activities. Where possible both indoor and outdoor activities should be encouraged.

    When planning activities consider learners’ motivation, confidence and physical competence, as this will support the rationale for the choice of activity they plan to undertake.

    Consider including activities that can develop skills and physical fitness in confined spaces as not all learners will have sufficient indoor or outdoor space for some physical activities.  

    Consider including activities that require everyday things found around the home to develop skills as not all learners will have access to sports equipment. 

    Learners who have a positive relationship with physical activity are more likely to be motivated, confident and physically competent.  

    How can we motivate learners to be physically active?

    Motivation can be nurtured through encouraging and planning physical activities that:  

    • provide learners with a range of suggestions, both in the type of activity and the level of challenge. This can lead to greater levels of enjoyment, engagement and effort
    • are inclusive and provide appropriate levels of challenge allowing visible progress to be made. Experiencing success and developing a sense of competency can increase motivation
    • make learners feel that they are connected to their learning communities by sharing their experiences. Having a sense of belonging and being valued can support motivation.

    How can we nurture learners’ confidence to be physically active?

    Confidence can be nurtured through planning physical activities that: 

    • satisfy the need of learners to self-determine the level of challenge. This can increase the likelihood of engagement and investment of effort
    • provide learners with suitable activities, and a level of challenge, which allow them to achieve success. A sense of accomplishment helps to build confidence
    • make success visible to the learner by setting clear goals and targets. Being able to see the progress they are making will help learners develop greater confidence.

    Learners’ confidence is often linked to how they perceive their competence to meet challenges.  

    How can we encourage learners to develop physical competence?

    Physical competence refers to transferable physical skills and elements of fitness. There will be considerable variation in learners’ physical competence across all aspects of skills and physical fitness. Consideration needs to be given to learners’ needs and what is an appropriate range of challenge.  

    Physical competency can be nurtured by planning activities which develop: 

    • locomotor skills such as running, hopping, skipping
    • body management skills such as balancing and core strength
    • manipulative skills such as rolling, throwing, catching and striking
    • physical fitness such as strength, stamina and flexibility.

    Challenge can be varied using strategies such as activity difficulty, outcome, equipment, duration, intensity and recovery time.

  • During this uncertain period in the wake of COVID-19, some learners may be worried or feel anxious. Although it is natural for individuals to respond to the issues that are stressful for them by thinking about them, evidence shows that focusing on the present can help individuals to stop worrying and quiet, which is good for mental well-being. Taking note means taking a break, even for a short moment, to spend some time in silence and reflect on our experiences. It is also about raising our heads and taking heed of our current situation and what is in front of us.

    Key considerations  

    Remember that for some learners being still and in the moment can be very difficult. They may need support to slow down, be still and notice what makes them feel calm and settled. Additional support or alternative strategies might be necessary to help some learners with this.

    It is important for learners to understand why they are being encouraged to take notice. Practitioners may therefore wish to communicate with parents and carers to support this understanding and outline how they can help learners with this. 

    Some suggestions include encouraging learners to:

    • use a range of self-care strategies which may include breathing techniques, spending time with pets, colouring
    • notice the positives from their day and think about what made them feel good
    • share their thoughts and feelings; think about how they are feeling today, e.g. diary, drawing, mood board.

    Being present and taking notice of the world around them is something that learners can do during their everyday lives. Encouraging them to use their senses is an effective way to help them learn to be in the moment and take notice. 

    Some suggestions include encouraging learners to:

    • look at something they might see all the time through ‘new eyes’ and notice the details; try to notice something new about it 
    • notice the colours, textures, shapes and reflections of their surroundings 
    • pay attention to the here and now; notice their breathing, observe the sounds they hear, feel the ground beneath their feet, tune into their thoughts  
    • try a new food and then notice how different it looks, tastes and feels.

    Being aware of, and attentive to, the natural world and spending time outdoors is good for learners’ mental health.  

    Some suggestions include encouraging learners to:

    • notice the view from their window and observe how it changes over time
    • listen to the sounds of nature like the wind, rain, animals, birds, etc.
    • play games that encourage them to use their senses related to the natural world, e.g. cloud watching, star gazing  
    • make use of audio/visual material linked to the natural world
    • take pictures with a camera, focus on capturing what’s before them
    • take a different route during their outdoor exercise.

    Remember that the Five Ways to Well-being are interconnected and that learners can be encouraged to take notice: 

    • when they are connecting with others and the positive experiences they can gain from these connections
    • when they are learning something new and focus upon their successes and achievements
    • when they are being physically active and think about how it makes them feel
    • how the act of giving, no matter how small, can make both receiver and giver feel happy and cared for.
  • During this period of educational settings closure learners are having to adjust to learning in new ways and in different environments. Learning something new, or getting better at something, can give a sense of purpose and achievement. This can boost self-confidence and self-esteem which is good for mental well-being. The current situation provides an opportunity for practitioners to develop a deeper understanding of how learning takes many shapes and forms. Learners may need support to understand that there are many ways in which they are continuing to learn.

    You will have reviewed and planned the learning of your vulnerable and disadvantaged learners. They will face additional challenges and barriers during this time and it is important to consider even more carefully how you can support them to keep learning during this time.  Try to see the opportunities presented by this new way of working and use these to differentiate your instruction and support for these learners.

    Key considerations and recommendations

    Educational settings are deeply social places. It is important to remember that learning is a shared social endeavour. Careful consideration needs to be given to how relationships, which promote and enhance learning, can be maintained during this period of distance learning. Maintaining relationships and promoting connections through learning may also support learners with their return to school.

    Some examples include:

    • taking time to learn more about what motivates your learners. Consider how you can use this to develop learning opportunities which are tailored to their interests
    • encouraging learners to build relationships with each other by providing opportunities to share and celebrate their wider learning through safe ways online.
    • providing opportunities for learners to involve household members in their learning experiences.

    Remember that learning happens in everyday experiences. Consider how learners can be encouraged to recognise and value the learning opportunities that are taking place in their everyday lives.

    Some examples include:

    • encouraging learners to help with everyday tasks using their literacy, numeracy and digital skills in authentic contexts
    • providing suitable opportunities for authentic learning experiences that have a focus on the outdoors
    • encouraging learners to identify and reflect on what they can learn from everyday media. Remember time spent online does not have to be spent passively consuming content. Practitioners can provide opportunities for learners to be creative, developing and applying a range of skills.

    Having opportunities to regularly engage in learning, in addition to that provided by an educational setting, can support well-being. Consider how you can encourage learners to explore and develop their own hobbies and interests. Vulnerable and disadvantaged learners are less likely to routinely engage in learning outside of the educational setting, so may need more encouragement and support to keep learning during this time.

    Some examples include:

    • finding out what motivates and is of interest your learners
    • model learning something new yourself and demonstrating how you overcame any challenges
    • encouraging learners to share their hobbies and skills via online classroom platforms
    • giving learners opportunities to teach each other a skill that they are confident with
    • setting up groups of learners to collectively develop a new skill.

    Remember that practitioners often play a key role in guiding and supporting learning within an educational setting. Now, more than ever, it is important to consider how you can help learners to continue to overcome challenges as this is an important part of the learning processVulnerable and disadvantaged learners will need your additional, differentiated support and encouragement in a more profound way at present.

    This advice should not be viewed in isolation, as it forms part of a collection guidance which addresses all areas of mental and physical health and well-being of learners.

  • During this current period, people have been demonstrating the value of ‘giving’ through acts of compassion, kindness and gratitude both individually and collectively. Thanking the NHS and key workers with the weekly ‘Clap for our carers’ and displaying rainbow posters in windows are perhaps the two most obvious examples of this.

    Regularly committing an act of kindness and ‘giving back’ can improve well-being for individuals and their wider community. The importance of encouraging and suggesting ways for learners to carry out small acts of kindness should not be underestimated during this time. These actions can have a positive impact on both the giver and the receiver.

    Key considerations and recommendations

    As the period of social distancing continues it is important to remind learners that they can still have a positive impact on others. Finding ways to connect through small acts of kindness such as saying ‘hello’ and giving a wave to a neighbour can help us, and those around us, feel a deeper sense of kinship, belonging and community.

    Learning communities can help to further develop this sense of belonging to a wider community by modelling acts of kindness and compassion. Educational settings can help nurture a culture that values kindness and giving. Practitioners should provide opportunities for learners to identify ways in which they can contribute to this.

    Encourage learners to understand that giving is more than just sharing material things. Giving time to help others is an effective way to strengthen social connections. Consider ways in which you can encourage learners to give their time to others. This could be anything from simply listening to someone or helping with a practical task. Children are never too young or old to learn the value and joy of helping others.

    Remember that giving, receiving and being aware of kindness gives us a sense of purpose and self-worth. Supporting learners to be aware of their own acts of kindness as well as noticing the things they are grateful for, can promote a feeling of happiness and positivity. Although the impact of an act of kindness and giving may not be visible, find ways to remind learners that it still exists and it still matters.