Student wellbeing and resilience are top priorities at Henry Kendall High School. These are fully embedded in its curriculum and processes and are included in the school’s strategic plan.
The school has been implementing MindMatters for over two years now. According to Head Teacher Student Services, Tracy Smith, the framework has helped the school to integrate its existing student wellbeing initiatives. “We already had activities that aimed to promote student wellbeing, but MindMatters has helped us to have a holistic approach and involve parents and our wider community in the process” she said.
Henry Kendall High School is located in Gosford, New South Wales and has about 820 students (including 55 students in the Special Education Centre). Its emphasis on academic, sporting and cultural excellence is underpinned by its strong student welfare and wellbeing ethos. Principal Andrew Backhouse said that “Our ‘hidden' curriculum is as important as the academic, sporting and cultural learning we provide. Our school's culture promotes cooperation, integrity, responsibility and respect for others.” The school has been recognised for its special education program and its Aboriginal Resource Room has been identified by local elders and the NSW Department of Education and Training as a site of cultural significance.
The school has seven staff teams that work together to support its students, their parents and carers and the wider community. The teams are: Learning Culture, 21st Century Learning Principles, Student Literacy, Student Numeracy, Student Resilience and Wellbeing, Teacher Accreditation and Strategic Communication.
Tracy heads the Student Resilience and Wellbeing Team, which spearheaded the implementation of MindMatters at the school. She said that the launch of the new MindMatters was perfect timing for her team. “We were looking for an evidence-based mental health and wellbeing framework. We wanted it to have a classroom component and to be manageable for every teacher. I was already familiar with the old MindMatters. I was thrilled to find that the new MindMatters is designed to be embedded across the whole school community and that it aligns with the NSW Department of Education and Training’s Wellbeing Framework. It’s exactly what we wanted. We decided to implement it” said Tracy.
Tracy added that the MindMatters parent and student surveys helped them identify the gaps in their wellbeing initiatives. “The support that we got from Principals Australia Institute in implementing the framework also helped immensely. Jeannette James, who was the Project Officer assigned to us, was very reassuring and provided practical advice on the implementation of our whole-school wellbeing plan and activities. To have that assurance about the direction we are trying to go in and receive feedback is invaluable. The support sessions were also useful because we get to discuss ideas with other schools implementing MindMatters,” she stated.
Asked what advice she would have for schools that are starting with their own student wellbeing strategy, Tracy said that having support from school leadership and cross-faculty involvement are crucial. “We have really supportive school leaders who consider wellbeing a priority. They understood our plans and supported our initiatives. The professional development of staff was also considered a priority. Our active cross-faculty involvement is also instrumental in having our initiatives accepted by the whole-school community” said Tracy.
Student resilience and wellbeing underpins the academic, sporting and cultural excellence in Henry Kendall High School.
The Aboriginal Resource Room at Henry Kendall High School is considered as a site of cultural significance by local elders and the NSW Department of Education and Training. The room was built in the 1980s and the artworks within were created by the school’s Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander students and community elders. Tracy shared that this part of the school was recently remodelled as part of the school’s upgrading of facilities. This room was left intact due to its cultural significance.
Henry Kendall High School builds collaborative relationships with parents and carers. Information sessions to support parent and carers information sessions are also offered regularly.