A Healthy Schools approach will look different at each school because the process starts by looking at what is already happening in the school community, including strengths, interests, assets and priorities. A plan is then tailored to fit the school, providing the best chance for success.
Even though the issues or actions may vary from school to school, the approach and implementation of the process is largely the same.
The six step process is a circular journey where schools continuously take a status check, work on making improvements, learn from successes and challenges and keep pushing the needle forward. When schools repeat the cycle each year, their healthy changes becomes embedded in the culture of the school and efforts to become a healthy school are sustained.
Step 1. Build support
The drive for making a healthier school environment can be initiated by anyone in the school community: a student, teacher, other staff member, parent, classroom, etc. However, the involvement and support of school administrators is essential. To get started, talk to your school principal about becoming a healthier school and then share your desire with the rest of the school community to gauge support and interest. If your school is ready to be a healthy school, follow the rest of the steps below.
If you want help and support creating a healthy school, contact a member of your school’s public health team (link to ‘public health at your school’ page) to ask for assistance in your school.
Step 2. Form a Healthy School Committee (HSC)
Once there has been interest and support expressed, the next step is to establish a Healthy School Committee (HSC). The committee should ideally include an administrator, students, parents, teachers, public health staff and other staff or community members that have an interest in improving the school’s health. All of these various team members bring valuable skills, perspectives and connections, plus engaging students and having adults and youth working side by side in partnership has a tremendous benefit to the entire group and the chance of success for their initiatives.
If you are looking to recruit some members for the HSC, you can share the opportunity at staff meetings, parent council meetings, school assemblies, classroom visits or via school newsletters or the school website.
The other option is to make your HSC a sub-committee of an existing group or club that is already working on school improvement or health issues.
Step 3. Assess your school
Once the HSC is formed, the first task is to meet as a group to discuss what strengths the school currently has, what interests and skills the group members bring to the table, and what areas could most help improve the health of their school.
The Haldimand-Norfolk has developed a Healthy Schools Facilitator’s Guide (link to guide) that includes a tool which an HSC can use to help them assess the current health of their school community. The guide also provides tips and strategies for holding HSC meetings and coming to a group decision on a priority area for the group to work on. Public Health staff members are also available and happy to help a school throughout this process.
Step 4. Create an action plan
Using the information collected through the Healthy Schools assessment tool, the HSC can now develop an action plan to address the priority area identified. The plan should aim to include strategies and activities within as many of the five area of comprehensive school health as possible:
- Curriculum, Teaching and Learning
- School and Classroom Leadership
- Student Engagement
- Social and Physical Environments
- Home, School and Community Partnerships
A sample template for the action plan is also included in the Healthy Schools Facilitators Guide. Public Health staff can help an HSC develop their comprehensive school health plan.
Step 5. Make it happen
This is where the plan gets put into action. Ensure that every group member is clear on their tasks before implementation begins, and have regular check-in meetings along the way to ensure goals are being met and support is being provided as needed.
Step 6. Reflect and celebrate
Evaluating the HSC’s progress is important to learn from both challenges and successes, and improve and expand plans in the future. It’s important to evaluate both the outcomes/achievements of the plan, but also how the HSC functioned and worked together.
It’s very important to take time to recognize and celebrate the hard work and dedication of the team members and the entire school community. Positive changes in health behaviours or health status are sometimes hard to see, or aren’t evident until many years down the road, but the work of HSCs is important and should be rewarding. The work of the committee should be showcased at the school, to parents, the school board, and the broader community as well.
It’s often a good idea to start recruiting and even planning for the following year’s HSC work before the summer break so that actions and initiatives can be started up right away in September.
To get started with your Healthy School Committee, contact your school’s Public Health Nurse or Health Promoter.