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Dr Irenka Suto

Assistant Director of Assessment, Cambridge CEM

Schools are using innovative digital assessment tools to help them get a complete picture of their students’ wellbeing, at individual, class and even whole-school levels.

There are three reasons why schools should understand their students’ wellbeing, says Dr Irenka Suto, Assistant Director of Assessment at the Cambridge Centre for Evaluation and Monitoring (CEM), which provides baseline assessments for children of all ages and is part of Cambridge University Press & Assessment.

Why student wellbeing is important

“First, children spend around 15,000 hours in school, which is a big proportion of their lives,” she explains.

“We want them to feel well, safe, energised, excited about the future and good about themselves. Second, encouraging them to talk openly about wellbeing equips them with broader social and emotional skills which they will need in life. Third, children with higher levels of wellbeing perform better academically.”

It’s well-documented that the Covid-19 pandemic took a toll on young people’s wellbeing by starving them of social interaction. “Social interactions are critical,” says Suto. “They fulfil a core psychological need of relatedness and belonging. If young people are feeling low, they are not going to want to engage with their peers, which makes the situation worse. And they are more likely to play truant, which impacts their education.”

Children with higher levels of wellbeing perform better academically.

A proactive way to help pupils with low levels of wellbeing

To help schools discuss and promote the wellbeing of their students, CEM developed a digital assessment tool — the Cambridge Wellbeing Check — grounded in research from the University.

It takes around 20 minutes and involves students answering 22 carefully developed multiple-choice questions. Suto stresses that the tool does not diagnose mental health problems among individuals; but it will produce a series of reports to give teachers a complete picture of wellbeing at individual, class and even whole-school levels. 

“If any answers raise concern about an individual student’s wellbeing, a teacher can follow up with them — in strict confidence,” says Suto. “Teachers can also discuss answers — anonymously — in a follow-up lesson to pinpoint general areas of wellbeing that could be improved for the class as a whole.”

The Cambridge Wellbeing Check is suitable for children aged 7–18 and is being used in schools in the UK and internationally. Suto hopes it will help anyone struggling with low levels of wellbeing but not confident enough to ask for support. “It’s a way to give every student the chance to indicate how they are feeling and for schools to provide support and interventions,” she says.

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