School connectedness is about creating a school community where everyone feels safe, seen, heard, supported, significant and cared for (BC School Based Mental Health Coalition, 2013). The focus in school connectedness is on building strong, positive relationships: among students, between students and school staff; between school staff, families and the larger community. The presence of caring relationships in schools — the heart of school connectedness — is increasingly recognized as a vital component of successful schools. The research is strong and consistent; students who feel connected to school do better academically and are healthier.
Is School Connectedness the Same as Positive Mental Health? School connectedness is one of a number of keys concepts that describes the perspectives and practices for promoting of positive mental health among children and youth.
Positive mental health is “the capacity of each and all of us to feel, think, and act in ways that enhance our ability to enjoy life and deal with the challenges we face. It is a positive sense of emotional and spiritual wellbeing that respects the importance of culture, equity, social justice, interconnections and personal dignity” (Public Health Agency of Canada, 2006).
School connectedness, like social-emotional learning, mental fitness, and strength-based perspectives, is an approach used to support and promote positive mental health in children and youth. While each of these approaches is slightly different; they have much in common and overlap with one another. They work side-by-side, each strengthening the impact of the others and all contributing to the wellbeing of children and youth. To learn more about these different approaches, see Schools as a Setting for Positive Mental Health: Better Practices and Perspectives. To learn how to take action on positive mental health at your school, see the JCSH Positive Mental Health Toolkit.
Why Do We Care About School Connectedness?
Research consistently shows that high levels of school connectedness are associated with better learning outcomes and better health outcomes for children and youth.
While the positive impacts of school connectedness are greatest on the students involved, here is a spill-over effect on our communities and society. When school connectedness is increased, graduation rates do too, which means we all benefit.
Societal Benefits of School Connectedness
For a more detailed look at the evidence on school connectedness, see School Connectedness: What Does the Evidence Say.