The effect of the visual environment on pupil wellbeing
There’s a growing focus on pupil wellbeing in education. We need to prioritise this to improve our children’s health and achievement.
Schools nationwide have many plans in place to support vulnerable pupils. It’s key that pupils can deal with the world around them, mentally and emotionally. In addition, pupils spend a large part of their life at school. Therefore, the school environment can impact mental health and pupil wellbeing.
In research on learning environments, school buildings lay the foundation for pupils’ learning in school. It’s key that school buildings are well designed and maintained. Internal learning environments also impact pupil wellbeing and happiness.
In the medical profession there’s a link between visual environments and mental health. The WHO European Charter on Environment and Health, 1989, states that;
“Good health and well-being require a clean and harmonious environment in which physical, psychological, social and aesthetic factors are given due importance”
In April 2008, The Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health published an article. It was titled: ‘The impact of art, design and environment in mental healthcare: a systematic review of literature’. It says, “environmental enhancements can have a positive impact on health and wellbeing of staff and patients in mental healthcare.” Pleasing visual environments in hospitals can benefit mental health and wellbeing. So, one can assume that the aesthetics of a learning environment improve pupil wellbeing too.
Promote Values and Raise Self Esteem
Consider your school’s values, ethos, opportunities and support structure. These are key to addressing mental health and pupil wellbeing. Displaying these around the school in a visual way can also act as a constant reminder for all pupils.
It can also make pupils feel cared about, safe and supported. Stokols, 1992 found that a pleasing environment positively affects self esteem and gives a sense of belonging. Jarman et al., 2004 state that “the aesthetic features of a school foster a strong sense of belonging that, in turn, can generate an enthusiasm for learning”.
Relax pupils with calming visual break out areas, inside and outside your school. This is particularly useful when a pupil’s anxiety or behaviour needs are being addressed outside the classroom. Philipp et al, 1999 studies environments with high aesthetic quality. They provide pleasurable places for ‘contemplation, personal reflection, enjoyment, relaxation and replenishing the soul’. They also help to encourage a healthy personal outlook.
Make sure the rooms where pupils go for additional support, mentoring or counselling look warm, cosy, calm and inviting as this will increase their desire to use these spaces. It will also help them see these rooms as positive areas.
Create a warm welcome at your school entrance and set a positive tone for each day. This can also impress first time visitors, including prospective families choosing their next school.
Pupil wellbeing – Feeling safe and secure in your environment
As well as making people feel happy, the aesthetics of an environment can also improve pupil wellbeing. And, simple things like making wayfinding easy can have a massive impact. Finally, using clearly labelled designs, with colours and images to differentiate areas, can improve wayfinding.
Pupils who are particularly anxious will take comfort in having clearly marked wayfinding signs around the school. Children with autism, in particular, need to know where they are at all times to avoid unnecessary anxiety.
The positive benefits of nature
The effect of nature and being outside is increasingly recognised for its positive effect on wellbeing. In fact, Frederich (1999) wrote that “a disconnection from nature may contribute to some cases of ill health in today’s society.”
Pupils usually spend a lot of time indoors, as lessons take place in classrooms. The UK weather doesn’t help matters either! As a result, pupils often lack motivation or suffer from low morale during Winter months. Use your school’s walls to depict outdoor habitats and you’ll introduce the benefits of exposure to the natural environment for your students.
The aim of a school is to create strong, healthy individuals who are able to learn. This can also help them reach their full potential. They need to grow socially, personally and academically, so they are ready for life. Therefore, the impact of the visual environment on pupil wellbeing should not be underestimated. At Promote Your School, we work with schools to create visually appealing learning environments. We’ve helped hundreds of schools achieve their objectives.
To discuss how we can help you to improve pupil wellbeing using Wall Art, please contact Lisa Savage on email@example.com or 020 7404 3400.
“Jarman, D., Webb, L. and Chan, T.C. (2004), “A beautiful school is a caring school”, School Business Affairs, available at: www.sba_june_04_beautiful_school.pdf/”
“Philipp, R., Pond, K., Rees, G., and Bartram, J. (1999a). The association of tourist health with aesthetic quality and environmental values. pp.195- 199. In: Mobility & Health: From Hominid Migration To Mass Tourism. Proceedings of European Conference on Travel Medicine, Venice, 25-27 March 1998. pub. WHO Collaborating Centre for Tourist Health and Travel Medicine, and Regione Veneto; 381pp.”
“Stokols, D. (1992). Establishing and maintaining healthy environments: Toward a social ecology of health promotion. American Psychologist, 47(1), 6-22.”
“Friedrich, M.J. (1999). The arts of healing. Journal of the American Medical Association; 281(19): 1779-1781.”
“Brill (1994, 1995) found that the physical environment can enhance productivity in the workplace. Applied to a school environment one could argue that the physical environment of a school can increase productivity for teachers. And, it can impact pupils’ attitude to learning.”
“Brill, M., Margulis, S., & Konar, E. (1984). Using office design to increase productivity, Vol. I. Buffalo, NY. Workplace Design and Productivity, Inc. Brill, M., Margulis, S., & Konar, E. (1985). Using office design to increase productivity, Vol. II. Buffalo, NY: Workplace Design and Productivity, Inc”