Children and students who have strong relationships and a positive sense of self – and who can understand and manage their own health and emotions – are in a better position to reach their full potential in the future. Their sense of well-being supports their learning because it makes them more resilient and better able to overcome challenges. Ontario's education system needs to help students build the knowledge and skills associated with positive well-being and become healthy, active and engaged citizens.
Developing child and student well-being means supporting the whole child – not only the child's academic achievement but also his or her cognitive, emotional, social and physical well-being. It also means ensuring that our schools, child care centres and early years programs are safe and welcoming physical environments. Achieving success in this goal will depend on the knowledge, wisdom and willingness of students, parents and guardians, community organizations, service providers, government ministries and others to create an environment that is healthy, safe and caring.
As child care, early learning and the education system become increasingly integrated, more children will benefit from a stronger start in life. Family support programs offer a wide range of opportunities that promote healthy child development, foster children's early learning through play, and support parents and families in their role as primary caregivers. The work that has already been done to create healthy, safer schools and to support the mental and physical health of children and youth provides an excellent blueprint for how we must work together in the future. This renewed vision must ensure that we build on the momentum we've achieved and equip our children and students with the skills they need to seize opportunities and overcome obstacles.
Over the past 10 years we have seen growing evidence demonstrating why student well-being is an important element of overall student success. Students cannot achieve academically if they feel unsafe at school or are bullied online. They cannot be expected to reach their full potential if they have mental health issues and if we do not provide the support they need. And they cannot be their best if they are not given the tools and motivation to adopt a healthy, active lifestyle, both in and outside of school.
That is why the well-being of children and students needs to move to the centre of the education system's priorities. This will require all of our partners to learn together and build capacity across the system to support our learners. By elevating child and student well-being as one of our four core priorities, we recognize its fundamental importance to our learners and their futures.
Student well-being is a goal that requires attention and commitment beyond the hours of the school day. Whether this goal is addressed by offering engaging before- and after-school programs or by ensuring that our schools act as community hubs beyond the school day, promoting student well-being requires the focused efforts of the entire community.
Ontario has already taken important steps to support the whole child, including the implementation of recommendations from the Safe Schools Action Team, the passage of the Accepting Schools Act and the launch of a comprehensive Mental Health and Addictions Strategy that focuses on children and youth in its first three years. However, if we are to fully support the whole child and the well-being of children and youth from our youngest learners to our soon-to-be graduates, we need to take further action.
To achieve success, Ontario will:
To assess progress towards this goal, Ontario will:
For several years, the Hamilton-Wentworth District School Board has been working hard to ensure the physical, mental and emotional well-being of its students. With help from school staff, students, parents and guardians, and public health nurses, Health Action Teams identify issues of concern to each school and put strategies in place to address them. The Health Promoting Schools program is now in 18 secondary and 29 elementary schools in the district, including almost all high- and medium-risk schools.