We want it to be a culture”: Children and young people’s perceptions of what underpins and undermines education-based wellbeing provision"

Ola Demkowicz, Kirsty Pert, Caroline Bond, Emma Ashworth, alexandra Hennessey, LUCY BRAY

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Background: Provision that aims to promote the social, emotional, and mental wellbeing of children and young people (including their mental health) is increasingly implemented in education settings. As researchers, policymakers, and practitioners explore the complexities of promotion and prevention provision in practice, it is critical that we include and amplify children and young people’s perspectives. In the current study, we explore children and young people’s perceptions of the values, conditions, foundations that underpin effective social, emotional, and mental wellbeing provision. Methods: We engaged in remote focus groups with 49 children and young people aged 6–17 years across diverse settings and backgrounds, using a storybook in which participants constructed wellbeing provision for a fictional setting. Analysis: Using reflexive thematic analysis, we constructed six main themes presenting participants’ perceptions: 1) recognising and facilitating the setting as a caring social community; 2) enabling wellbeing to be a central setting priority; 3) facilitating strong relationships with staff who understand and care about wellbeing; 4) engaging children and young people as active partners; 5) adapting to collective and individual needs; and 6) being discreet and sensitive to vulnerability. Conclusions: Our analysis presents a vision from children and young people of an integrated systems approach to wellbeing provision, with a relational, participatory culture in which wellbeing and student needs are prioritised. However, our participants identified a range of tensions that risk undermining efforts to promote wellbeing. Achieving children and young people’s vision for an integrated culture of wellbeing will require critical reflection and change to address the current challenges faced by education settings and staff.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBMC Public Health
Early online date7 Jul 2023
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 7 Jul 2023


  • children and young people
  • qualitative
  • school-based wellbeing provision
  • education
  • wellbeing
  • child and youth voice


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