Building resilience
and mental wellbeing for children and young people

WSA Ethos & Environment

Key question: How does the school or college’s culture promote respect and value diversity?

An environment "filled with safety and belonging" that:

  • Promotes trust and physical, social and emotional safety
  • Creates a sense of belonging and inclusion
  • Recognises the importance of building relationships
  • Promotes respect, values and celebrates diversity
  • Is trauma aware / informed
  • sees EHWB as 'everybody's business'

 Six Litmus Tests (Pooky Knightsmith)

(2) My School Feels Safe and Welcoming 

A safe and welcoming school is one in which students will thrive and flourish. They will feel able to be themselves and will know that their needs will be met; this will be true too of staff, parents and visitors. Walking into a school which feels warm and welcoming is enough to make any visitor walk with a bounce in their step; whilst a frosty welcome with angry shouting audible in the background is enough to set anyone on edge.

Litmus Test Quick self-reflection tool

Prompts and Resources

A culture where children and young people feel included, respected, safe and secure and where their achievements and contributions are valued and celebrated is essential to the development of good relationships. In order to create this environment for effective learning and teaching there should be a shared understanding of wellbeing underpinned by children's rights and a focus on positive relationships across the whole school community.

The physical environment - the buildings, grounds and school surroundings is important. For example, ensuring the school grounds more appealing for recreation and physical activity. It also about students feeling safe in the school. Are there places in school where it easier for bullies to operate? Are the changing rooms / toilets a safe place to be? 

Karen Treisman* suggests asking:

If the school could talk what would it say?

What messages or feelings students / staff / parents / visitors perceive on arrival or as they move around the building? How are they welcomed? 

  • Signage / messaging (lots of don't.... Stop..., No...?)
  • Displays / artwork / positive posters etc. Does every member of the school community see themselves reflected?
  • safe places available / accessible soothing - lighting / colours / furniture

and a whole lot more things to consider. Ther are some excellent suggestions / tools in Karen's book.

*A Treasure Box for Creating Trauma-Informed Organizations: A Ready-to-Use Resource For Trauma, Adversity, and Culturally Informed, Infused and Responsive Systems“, Dr Karen Treisman, Volume 2, Chapter 16.

Relationships and Belonging

"We must get relationships on the map in school and then prioritise relationships first before anything else, yes, even the curriculum! Nothing must ever be at the expense of our relationship with the children and young people we are alongside, Nothing".

Louise Bomber: Know Me to Teach Me (An outstanding book and IMHO a must read)

Relationships and Belonging - more information / resources

Everybody's business... 


Young people recognise the importance of relationships and belonging alongside the importance of wellbeing as 'everybody's business...'. Check out IMPACTS: a Call to Action to make wellbeing everybody's business created by young people in Cornwall.

Children's Rights

UN Rights Respecting Schools

Children's Rights on the Start Now website

Page last updated: 6 November 2021

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