Benefits of teaching resilience skills in schools

A briefing entitled, “Local action on health inequalities: Building young people’s resilience in schools”, was released by Public Health England last September.

In this briefing, penned by Matilda Allen, the benefits of teaching resilience skills in schools were outlined. Resilience was defined as being “the capacity to bounce back from adversity,” something that can not only be beneficial to all students, but that could also help with closing the achievement gap.

Some examples of resilience skills include:

  • The ability to see setbacks as temporary
  • Being flexible, and having the ability to adapt quickly
  • Being comfortable with asking for support
  • Building positive relationships
  • Feeling in “control”

It’s easy to see then how these can be used to foster a growth mindset amongst students, and how integrating these into schools as part of national curriculum could play a part in closing the achievement gap in education.

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Report findings

The briefing chiefly recognised that resilience skills are part of growth mindset development, by noting that they are not necessarily inherent, and therefore must be taught.

According to the briefing, “Resilience is not an innate feature of some people’s personalities. Resilience and adversity are distributed unequally across the population, and are related to broader socio- economic inequalities which have common causes – the inequities in power, money and resources that shape the conditions in which people live and their opportunities, experiences and relationships.”

The briefing also contains the findings of research carried out on how to build the resilience of students in a practical way. The findings revealed that praising “positive achievements” could be of help, but stressed that these achievements need not be to do with academic grades or performance. Things such as number of years of school completed, and positive experiences through participation and engagement, enjoyment, and partaking in sports, music and the arts could also be used.

Teaching resilience skills at schools has been found to help with problems at home, and could play a role when looking at how to close the achievement gap. The Families and Schools Together (FAST) intervention programme was deployed across areas with high levels of deprivation in the UK, and was rolled out in schools there to help develop resilience skills. The results showed that students experienced reduced family conflict, increased interaction with society, and an increase in academic competence as a result of FAST.

The briefing concludes that while making programmes such as these available to disadvantaged students is important, in order to close the gap in education, implementation of teaching resilience should be inclusive and school-wide: “In order to reduce inequalities, it is important that actions should be universal, but targeted with greater intensity and scale at those children experiencing poverty or disadvantage. Dedicated resources, opportunities, and positive experiences are more important for those most in need, but should also be available to all.”