How to develop a school health and wellbeing policy

Teaching staff discussing health and wellbeing policy
When you imagine your school health and wellbeing policy, what do you think of?
  1. A dusty document that was created years ago, put in a drawer, never to be seen again.
  2. Something enthusiastically created by one member of staff, handed out at a staff meeting, and then promptly forgotten.
  3. A job that’s been on the health coordinator’s ‘to do’ list for years.
  4. A comprehensive, tailored document that reflects the needs of your school community.

(If you answered D, no need to keep reading. Give yourself a pat on the back instead!)

While there may be some departmental policies or guidelines available to guide your school such as the Healthy Food and Drink Policy, schools are usually left to navigate the complex world of health and wellbeing on their own.

A school health and wellbeing policy can:

Reassure families, students and school staff that health and wellbeing measures are in place;

Ensure that your school is following the latest evidence-based advice, rather than trends or misinformation;

If publically available, be a communication tool for your school community;

Ensure that health and wellbeing is a comprehensive whole-school approach, instead of one-off, isolated events;

Ensure consistency in messaging and programing in regards to health across the school;

Establish a framework for deciding which health activities your school will undertake;

Confirm that your school meets criteria for programs such as SunSmart Schools and Crunch&Sip®;

Involve a cross-section of the school community; and

Introduce your students to activities and programs that will contribute to their lifelong health and wellbeing.

Steps to creating a policy
  1. Identify a group of interested people. This may be the development of a new team or the enhancement of an existing team/committee. Members may include administrators, teachers, students, canteen representatives, school nurses, parents and health professionals. Make sure you allocate a leader or coordinator.
  2. Identify school needs. Consider existing programs, priorities, available resources, compliance with mandated requirements and identify areas of improvement. Ask for feedback from the school community.
  3. Adapt Cancer Council WA’s health and wellbeing policy template. Seek input and feedback from the school and community if possible.
  4. Build awareness and support. Keep decision makers such as administration and parent committees informed, as well as communicating to students, staff and the community.
  5. Adopt and implement the policy.
  6. Maintain, measure and evaluate. Review the policy biannually and adapt as necessary.
About Cancer Council WA’s health and wellbeing policy template

If your school wants to review an existing health and wellbeing policy, or create a new one, Cancer Council WA has a policy template that you can use. The template is designed for schools to use as a base or framework, aims to be modified or built on to suit the context of individual schools, such as including existing programs that are running, or considering special circumstances.

The template includes evidence-based recommendations for nutrition, physical activity, sun protection, being mentally healthy and alcohol. Other school health priority areas can be added such as injury prevention, drug education, relationships and sexual health education, etc. It may be appropriate to combine with other policies, such as Act-Belong-Commit’s school Mental Health Policy or School Drug Education & Road Aware (SDERA) guidelines.

To download an editable version of Cancer Council WA’s health and wellbeing policy template click here and to access the supporting documents, click here.