The effect of the visual environment on pupil wellbeing
In recent years there has been a growing focus on pupil wellbeing in our educational establishments. We need to address this in order to improve our children’s health and education achievement.
Schools nationwide have implemented many excellent initiatives to monitor and support vulnerable pupils. It’s vital that pupils are equipped, mentally and emotionally, to deal with the world around them. Pupils spend a large portion of their life at school, so their school environment can contribute to their mental health and pupil wellbeing.
Research on the effects of the learning environments on pupils shows that school buildings lay the foundations for pupils’ learning and experience in school. How well school buildings are designed and maintained, and the learning environments within them, has strong impact on pupils’ wellbeing and happiness.
Research within the medical profession links the positive effect of the visual environment on mental health. The WHO European Charter on Environment and Health, 1989, stated that “good health and well-being require a clean and harmonious environment in which physical, psychological, social and aesthetic factors are all given their due importance”.
In April 2008, The Journal of the Royal Society for the Promotion of Health published a article titled: The impact of art, design and environment in mental healthcare: a systematic review of literature. It stated that ‘environmental enhancements can have a positive impact on health and wellbeing of staff and patients in mental healthcare.” If pleasing visual environments in hospitals can be of benefit to people’s mental health and wellbeing, one can assume that the aesthetics of a learning environment will also improve pupil wellbeing.
Promoting Values and Raising Self Esteem
The values, ethos, opportunities and ways in which schools support pupils are fundamental in addressing mental health and pupil wellbeing. Having these communicated and brought to life around the school in a visual way can 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 can have a positive effect on self esteem and give a sense of belonging. Jarman et al., 2004 state that the aesthetic features of a school can foster a strong sense of belonging that, in turn, can generate an enthusiasm for learning.
Calming visual break out areas, inside and outside your school, can relax pupils. This can be particularly useful during moments in which a pupil’s anxiety or behaviour needs are being addressed outside the classroom. Philipp et al, 1999a found that environments with high aesthetic quality provide pleasurable places to be for contemplation, personal reflection, enjoyment, relaxation and replenishing the soul. They also help to encourage a healthy personal outlook.
Ensuring that the rooms where pupils go for additional support, mentoring or counselling look warm, cosy, calm and inviting has an impact on their desire to use these spaces and see them as positive areas.
Creating a warm welcome at your school entrance can immediately set a positive tone for each day. It 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 have very practical applications for improving pupil wellbeing. Simple things like making sure that wayfinding is easy can have a massive impact. Using clearly labelled designs with colours and images to differentiate areas can be a great way of improving wayfinding.
Pupils who art particular anxious and need to know where they’re going at all times can take a lot of comfort in having clearly marked wayfinding signs around the school. For pupils with autism and or anxiety, not knowing where they are, especially when they first start, can have a huge impact on pupil wellbeing.
The positive benefits of nature
The effect of nature and being outside is increasingly being recognised for its strong positive effect on mental health and pupil wellbeing. Frederich (1999) wrote about the fact that “a disconnection from nature may contribute to some cases of ill health in today’s society.”
Pupils usually spend large amounts of their time indoors, as lessons take place in classrooms. The UK weather doesn’t help matters either! By using your school’s walls to depict outdoor habitats, you can increase the positive 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 and achieve so that they can reach their full potential. They need to grow socially, personally and academically, so they are ready for life. The impact of the visual environment on pupil wellbeing should not be underestimated. At Promote Your School, we work with schools to support them in making visually appealing school environments that help them to achieve their objectives.
If you would like to discuss how we can help you to improve your learning environment and 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 impact on 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