Developing a Sense of Belonging in your School
What do we mean by belonging?
Belonging is the sense of connection with a group or institution, for example a group of peers, family or school. Young people and staff need to feel like they belong to a social group as well as belong to the school itself. When students feel included and connected to school they will be more likely to participate in the school community and achieve academic success.
Key aspects of belonging are linked to feeling:
- Connected and Included
- Respected and Valued
- A sense of purpose
Schools, through their policies and practices, can create a positive environment where all school members feel included, valued and supported. Active participation is the ability for individuals to take part in school life and contribute in meaningful, on-going ways that have a positive impact on the individual as well as the community itself. Both staff and children benefit from a real sense of participation and contribution.
Ideas for developing a sense of belonging
- Adopt a 'whole school approach' to mental health and wellbeing that includes everyone in your school community
- Form a Wellbeing Action Group that represents and acts on behalf of the whole school community that is inclusive to all children and families
- Collectively create a shared understanding of what wellbeing means through PSHCE and other curriculum subjects, assemblies, tutor time, staff meetings & dedicated wellbeing sessions at parents' evenings,
- Ensure that the school regularly asks pupils, staff and parents their opinions and provide feedback on this.
- Develop a sense of responsibility for the school environment so that it belongs to everyone and that everyone has a role in keeping it safe, attractive, calm & a good place to learn
- Promote participation in group activities, creative interests, specific roles, clubs and team building skills.
- Review the taught curriculum so that it contains opportunities for autonomy, practical learning and creative input
- Create support systems where children, young people, staff and families are able to support each other in a safe and de-stigmatised way
- Promote inclusion by valuing diversity as a strength, treating everyone as a unique individual, teaching about culture and modelling positive attitudes to diversity.
Activities - Exploring a sense of belonging in your school with pupils, staff and families:
- Begin with an activity that explores the definition of 'belonging'. Young children may need to explore this alongside an adult because it may not be a term they are familiar. Feedback and list ideas.
- Get staff and pupils to describe a time when they felt a sense of 'belonging'. Ideas might be at home, in their family, with friends, at a club, in their class, etc. These ideas can be recorded as annotated drawings, spoken or as a written activity.
- Name some of the feelings that a sense of belonging conjures up. Your school may want to share these ideas across the community of the school with a display called 'Exploring a Sense of Belonging'. Ask other children, staff and families to add their thoughts and ideas to the display over a week or two.
- Get staff and children to talk about the places in the school where they feel they belong (safe, happy, connected with others, valued, etc.). Why do those places make us feel this way?
- Are there places in the school where children and staff feel less safe, valued and happy?
- Belonging is also associated with a sense of purpose and feeling valued for our achievements, however small. Explore with staff and pupils the things that they enjoy doing. List as many things as they can think of. Get children/young people to partner up and share with each other the things they enjoy. Build in time for children and staff to praise each other for the things they do.
- Share all the information about belonging through assemblies, parents evenings, notice boards, the school website and the Wellbeing Action Group.
- Referring to your Wellbeing Audit, look at the areas that link with 'belonging'. Celebrate where your school is achieving a sense of belonging for all pupils. Develop your action plan to reflect where there are areas for development.
LIFEbeat are planning and delivering a series of 1 & 2 day trainings to support the Pillars of Wellbeing. For details of training events go to: Training and Support
Here are the resources from the belonging workshops: LIFEbeat Pillar of Belonging Activities.doc
We have also identified areas of the Wellbeing Audit that relate to Belonging. You can use this to help support your action plan: LIFEbeat Training - Somerset Wellbeing Framework - Pillar of Belonging.pdf