At Sacred Heart Catholic School, Mosman, our approach to pastoral care is structured around the principles of Positive Education. All staff at Sacred Heart are committed towards the building of a school community where the wellbeing of all students and staff is given the same priority as academic achievement. The high prevalence of depression among young people worldwide, the well-documented small rise in life satisfaction, and the correlation between learning and positive emotion all argue that the skills for wellbeing should be taught in school. As Professor Martin Seligman writes in his book, ‘Flourish,'
"The time has come for a new prosperity, one that takes flourishing seriously as the goal of education and of parenting. Learning to value and attain flourishing must start early – in the formative years of schooling – and it is this new prosperity, kindled by positive education, that the world can now choose." (Flourish, by Martin Seligman, 2011, p.97).
What is Positive Education?
Positive Education is a strand of Positive Psychology which is “the scientific study of the conditions and processes that contribute to the flourishing or optimal functioning of people” (Gable & Haidt, 2005). Positive psychology provides a rigorous scientific underpinning for the notion of ‘Wellbeing’ which is a frequently used concept in contemporary Western culture. While mainstream psychology often focuses on people who already suffer from mental health issues, Positive Psychology aims to proactively increase mental resilience and wellbeing through a focus on the strengths and virtues that enable individuals and communities to flourish and thrive. Simply put, it is the study of ‘what is right with life’. This short video outlines some key concepts of Positive Psychology.
We believe that an emphasis on Positive Education can play a crucial preventative role in reducing depression, anxiety and stress within the school environment. A positive education framework provides opportunities for students and staff to increase both their wellbeing and performance through specific learning experiences and the development of a shared language and understanding. We have an explicit focus on raising an awareness on the development of Character Strengths at Sacred Heart.
Click here to view the 24 character strengths chart. You can do the Values In Action (VIA) character strengths questionaire on either the VIA Institute on Character website or on the Authentic Happiness website. Click here to access the presentation made to parents by Dr Steve Zolezzi, Head of Positive Education at Knox Grammar, on September 16 2014. Click on the following link to access a great article by Professor Michael Bernard from University of Melbourne on Parenting Strengths that can make a difference.
Confused about the image above? Listen here to two of our Year 1 students telling us about 'Bucket Filling.'
This excellent article from Time magazine explains the origins and science of Positive Psychology.
At Sacred Heart Catholic School we use Dr Martin Seligman’s ‘PERMA’ model of wellbeing, comprising the five elements; Positive emotions, Engagement,Relationships, Meaning and Accomplishment as detailed in his book ‘Flourish.’ Listen to Dr Seligman speaking about PERMA at his presentation at Sydney Opera House in February 2013 at which a number of Sacred Heart staff were present.
We are a member of the Positive Education Schools Association (PESA). The association aims to work together with schools throughout Australia who are considered to be pioneers in the implementation of the principles of positive psychology. Click on the link to look at our 2013 Staff Development Day Presentation on Positive Education. Cllick on this link to look at another of our presentations on Positive Psychology, presented by visiting psychologist and speaker, Deb Walker.
Click on this link to a TED talk featuring a very impressive 13 year old boy talking about how he likes to learn and about the importance of happiness in his life.
The Catholic nature of Sacred Heart emphasises the nurturing of a family spirit, which is experienced in the welcoming, inclusive and supportive school community. This family and community spirit is a defining characteristic of Sacred Heart. Our approach to Pastoral Care,through the implementation of Positive Education, permeates all aspects of life at Sacred Heart. All members of the school community accept they have a responsibility to ensure others feel safe, valued and happy. In accordance with the Federal Government's National Safe Schools Framework which informs our focus on Positive Education and Wellbeing, we believe that child safety and wellbeing are enhanced when students feel connected to their school, have positive and respectful relationships with their peers and teachers, feel confident about their social and emotional skills and satisfied with their learning experiences at school. It is an important responsibility, and one that is taken very seriously by children, staff and clergy alike. We are truly a family, and we care for one another as such. The Safe Schools Hub website is a valuable community resource that assists us in our approach towards the building of a safe and supportive community at Sacred Heart.
Positive Education at Sacred Heart focuses on the development and well-being of the whole person. Important and effective support structures and networks are in place to assist all children.
A big part of our focus on Positive Education at Sacred Heart is centred on the work of Professor Carol Dweck of Stanford University. You can read more about Professor Dweck's research on 'Fixed and Growth Mindsets' here.
Points of Contact:
Teachers and all support staff seek to maintain close and supportive relationships with children under their care and with their parents. All staff at Sacred Heart make personal connections with children to ensure each child is being cared for and has available to him a confident point of contact. The principal and leadership team at Sacred Heart take an active interest in child and staff wellbeing and there are protocols and processes in place to ensure that support for individual children and staff is directed promptly when needed.
A peer support program operates in Term 3 for all children from Kindergarten through to Year 6. The program is led by the Years 5 and 6 students who are all trained as Peer Support leaders by their teachers. During Term 3 the whole school meets once per week in Peer Support Teams, comprising one child forom each year level. The program focuses on themes to develop social competencies and build resilience and sessions usually include input from the Years 5 and 6 leaders, followed by activities and role plays to reinforce the message. Strong bonds are formed through the Peer Support program, and the Years 5 and 6 children develop leadership skills as they mentor and guide their younger buddies. During 2015 the focus of our Peer Support program will be anti-bullying.
All relationships at the Sacred Heart are based on mutual respect and honest, open communication. All individuals are accepted for who they are and are celebrated for the gifts, talents and abilities they share with the school community. Bullying behaviour has no place at Sacred Heart and staff are vigilant in their monitoring of it, supporting all children. Click here to read the Sacred Heart Anti-Bullying Policy and here for the Sydney Catholic Education Office's new Anti-Bullying policy that was launched in March 2014. During 2016 the Sacred Heart School will be adopting the Kidsmatter Framework and staff will receive training in the first two components based around 'Building a Positive School Community' and 'Developing Resilience.'
Celebrations and Awards:
Celebrations are an important part of life at Sacred Heart. Regular Masses and liturgies are an opportunity to celebrate faith and spirituality, while other events are held to mark special occasions and successes such as our special Weeks 5 and 9 assemblies each term where we present awards to children from each class who have exemplified the school values of Faith, Generosity and Courage through the demonstration of 'Random Acts of Kindness.'
The management of children’s behaviour forms part of effective pastoral care at Sacred Heart and is articulated in our Sacred Heart Behaviour Management Policy. It encourages children to learn from their mistakes, be aware of the consequences of their actions and consider the needs and rights of others. The school takes a firm, but fair stance on behaviour management, working in close partnership with families. Children are encouraged to exercise self-discipline, respect and courtesy, and take pride in themselves, their work and their school.