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Northwest B.C. public school students report lack of well-being: Survey

Grade 8 students lag behind average well-being for B.C. school districts
Coast Mountains School District 82 released highlights from a self-report questionnaire of students in various grades. (Ben Bogstie/Terrace Standard)

Coast Mountain School District 82 (SD82) in northwest B.C. will need to pay extra attention to Grade 9 students next year after a recent survey shed light on well-being issues according to outgoing superintendent Janet Meyer.

“It seems we have fewer kids thriving than the rest of the province and more kids on the low end,” Meyer said. “Those are some things that the school district’s educators need to discuss.”

Sixty-four per cent of Grade 8 students at coast mountain reported ‘low well-being’ and only 17 per cent are ‘thriving’ according to highlights from a Middle Year Development Instrument (MDI) study.

Of grade 8 students across B.C., half reported low well-being while almost one quarter were thriving.

The study used a self-report questionnaire asking children about their thoughts, feelings and experiences in school and the community.

In her last superintendent’s report of the year, Meyer highlighted the well-being index – which measures optimism, happiness, self-esteem, absence of sadness and general health.

Well-being index for Grade 8. (SD82 superintendent report June 15, 2022)
Well-being index for Grade 8. (SD82 superintendent report June 15, 2022)

The assets index measures the number of children reporting the presence of relationships with adults and peers, after-school activities, nutrition and sleep. Only 39 per cent of students who finished Grade 8 at coast mountain schools reported getting enough nutrition and sleep to be considered an asset. That’s a full 10 points below the B.C. average.

“I’m very concerned about this year’s Grade 8s, and as they move into Grade 9 we need to be aware of this information about how they’re feeling, and their behaviours and see if we can’t intervene to make improvements for them,” Mayer told Black Press Media in an interview.

“I think conversations need to be had with Grade 9s next year about healthy living, which would encompass nutrition and sleep, like specific targeted conversations and lessons around well-being and specifically that of eating and sleeping habits.”

She said nutrition is also a concern for Grade 6 students going into Grade 7. Half of Grade 6 students reported getting enough nutrition and sleep. Half of students reported low well-being, with a quarter of them thriving. That’s 9 percentage points lower well-being than the average across B.C.

Meyer said while Grade 5 students are doing “quite well” they still need to be supported as they move into Grade 6. Almost one third of Grade 5 students are thriving, which is comparable to other districts.

“Sleep and nutrition is still the lowest one for Grade 5. So that’s a consistent theme across the district in our middle years.”

Meyer said there isn’t enough data to determine specific causes for the low Grade 8 numbers. Since this is the first time SD82 has used the MDI they can’t compare to previous years.

“I can’t tell you how much the pandemic has impacted this because I can’t track these Grade 8s, who were in Grade 7 last year, because we didn’t do it last year,” Meyer said. “So my answer to you would be to ask that question in a year.”

She said the long-term value of these studies is to be able to monitor groups of students as they progress through the grades.

“I don’t have the data to compare it to from last year. But next year at this time they will. This is not a free service from where we get it. It’s not cheap and we wanted to try it one year,” Meyer said.

“I’m very impressed with the information that it’s given us about students in Coast Mountain School District, and it would be my recommendation that it continues and expands into Grade 7.”

Mayer said the MDI is especially useful when compared with information from the Student Learning Survey that includes other questions in the area of wellness. She said the outlook is better for next year.


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