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Achieving broad-scale parent1 engagement with school initiatives has proven elusive. This article reports survey data from 287 Maltese parents about their perceptions of the quality of their child's school's initiatives for promoting students’ wellbeing and mental health. Findings indicate that, on average, parents rated school initiatives highly. However, a MANCOVA of respondents grouped into three categories of Self-Assessed Parenting Capabilities (low, medium, high) showed that parents who held low perceptions of their own parenting capabilities also held significantly lower perceptions of the quality of schools’ mental health promotion initiatives. Less favourable dispositions towards school mental health promotion initiatives by parents with relatively low-parenting capabilities have implications for the design and delivery of school-based initiatives. For example, typical parent engagement, support and information provision activities (e.g., parent-teacher meetings, newsletters) might be less well received in families that arguably have a greater need to engage with such initiatives. This study has implications for whole-school mental health promotion initiatives that seek to include all parents.
In this article we report Maltese primary and secondary students' perspectives about their school experiences and their mental health. Questionnaires were completed by 281 students. Relationships emerged between students' reports about their involvement in bullying, mental health status, and a range of typical features of school environments. A conservative non-parametric Jonckheere-Terpstra test indicated significant unidirectional differences, from non-involved through to bully/victim groups, for six selected variables that have the potential to be influenced by schools' policies and practices, namely, positive school community, coping with school work, social and emotional education, friendships, safety, and teachers' responses to bullying events. Effect sizes ranged from small to medium. This study illustrates identifiable patterns of students' social, emotional and academic wellbeing. It highlights the need for intervention programs that are conceptualised to meet the needs of different student groups, in this case, involvement in bullying as a victim or as a bully. It also highlights how a range of school-based influences may operate together to affect the wellbeing of students, and points to the need for multi-disciplinary collaboration and approaches to mental health promotion in schools.
Educators are at the heart of educational reforms, such as the introduction of mental health promotion initiatives into early childhood education and care (ECEC) settings. Good quality implementation of reforms requires educators to engage in high quality professional learning: If educators have not had opportunities to gain appropriate knowledge and expertise, new initiatives may be poorly implemented and may consequently achieve limited outcomes. This article reports ECEC educators’ perspectives about the impact on their knowledge and practices of the professional education component of the KidsMatter mental health promotion initiative. Educators from 111 ECEC services across Australia contributed a range of types of data, including questionnaires about their knowledge and self-efficacy, feedback about each professional education session, and photo stories about their changed professional practices. Participants indicated that their professional learning led to changed practices in areas such as interpreting children's behaviours, interacting with children, approaching parents, and collaborating with colleagues. Participants’ photo stories illustrate how professional education that focuses on content, active learning, coherence, and collaboration can positively influence knowledge and practices. However, if such gains are to last beyond relatively highly resourced start-up phases of initiatives, professional education needs to integrate with, and draw from, the ongoing availability of other professionals such as guidance and counselling staff, who have complementary knowledge and expertise; be recognised and embedded as a core component of ECEC educators’ roles and their workplace practices; and be culturally and contextually situated. Staff accounts of the impact of their professional learning on their practices can highlight to policy-makers the practical outcomes of strong investments in professional education. Awareness by other professions of the affordances and constraints faced by ECEC educators may contribute to interdisciplinary synergies among the range of professions involved in mental health promotion in educational settings.