Schools are a major contributor to the well-being of children and youth. Schools play an important role in their intellectual, social and emotional development.


Schools provide opportunities and guidance for children and youth to:
  • expand their knowledge about the world
  • develop their critical thinking skills
  • refine their communication skills
  • learn and practice problem-solving
  • gain experience working in groups
  • develop new interests and aptitudes
  • make links between learning and life in the community
  • learn about and develop respect for cultural and racial diversity
  • use learning as a tool for adaptation throughout their lives.

Schools help prepare children and youth to become competent and responsible adults. However, if young people fail to "adapt" to school or schools fail to "adapt" to them, they are at risk of dropping out or failing. Youth who fail to graduate from high school are almost twice as likely to remain unemployed for long periods. This trend is likely to get worse before it gets better, since between 1990 and 1996 the number of new jobs for those with post-secondary diplomas increased by 26 percent, while new jobs for those with less than a high school diploma decreased by the same amount. (53)

It is beyond the scope of this guide to capture the full span of contributions school experiences make to the healthy development of children and youth. However, a selection of strategies that schools can use to influence the healthy development of children and youth have been included.


Although schools have no direct relationship with infants during the first year of life. They can play a role in preparing parents. The Carnegie Task Force on meeting the needs of young children recommends that schools deliver a comprehensive human biology and family life education curriculum. This would provide all young people with some knowledge of child development and be an opportunity for them to explore the attitudes and behaviours that are the foundation of responsible parenthood.

The chart below lists factors that influence children's healthy development in the first year of their lives.

The headings of each column indicate a positive outcome we would like children to achieve.

Under each heading factors are listed that influence that outcome.

Clicking on an underlined influence will open a window containing a list of strategies that schools can implement.

To return to the table, close the new window.

Physically healthy

Securely attached to parents and caregivers

Developing feelings and emotional control

Getting ready for language and learning

A healthy pregnancy
Adequate nutrition

Safe physical environment

Early detection and treatment of developmental problems


Sensitive attunement and involvement of parents and caregivers

Emotional health of parents and caregivers

Parents' beliefs and expectations

 

Sensitive involvement and responsiveness of parents and caregivers

Infant's temperament

Appropriate stimulation

Positive parenting skills

Safe and varied environment




Children’s first experience of school is one of the factors that sets the stage for their later success or failure. Early success at school contributes to teachers’ perceptions of children as strong or poor students, as well as the children’s sense of being competent. Schools which have the ability to help children from diverse backgrounds succeed in their first year of school are increasing every child’s chance of ongoing success.

Studies in both Canada and the United States have repeatedly shown that a kindergarten teacher's assessment of a child's readiness-to-learn (which includes general knowledge, minor muscle coordination, ability to focus attention and work independently, ability to take instruction from teachers and to control aggression and anxiety) is the single strongest predictor of academic success in the early grades which, in turn, is a strong predictor of high school completion. As early as grade 3, children who go on to drop out of school are behind academically, have low achievement test scores, and are already starting to turn off school. Many are also starting to display the bullying and aggressive behaviour that set them up for rejection by their peers, an escalating struggle with teachers, and deteriorating self-esteem. Anything that can increase readiness-to-learn in kindergarten will strongly protect against both premature drop out and adolescent delinquency. (53, 65, 205)

Parents also have a strong influence on their children’s success at school. Strong school-parent partnerships help to create the conditions which support children’s learning.

The chart below lists factors that influence children's healthy development as they prepare for school.

The headings of each column indicate a positive outcome we would like children to achieve.

Under each heading factors are listed that influence that outcome.

Clicking on an underlined influence will open a window containing a list of strategies that schools can implement.

To return to the table, close the new window.

Physically healthy

Age-appropriate social skills

Positive emotional health

Appropriate language and learning skills

Nutrition, exercise, medical care

Protection from injuries

Healthy physical environment

Adequate financial resources

 

Relationship with parents and caregivers

Experiences with other adults

Experiences with other children

Secure attachment

Developing sense of competence

Supportive communities

Protection from abuse


Stimulating homes

Quality childcare and preschool education

Prepared primary schools

 



The transition to adolescence is a time when young people are experiencing many changes. They are increasingly sensitive to their peers. They experiment with new behaviours. They are ready to explore issues and ideas. They want their ideas to be heard and taken seriously. It is a time when young people can make a commitment to learning or begin to lose interest. Schools are challenged, not only to have meaningful interaction in the classrooms, but also to create an environment that reflects norms that promote young people’s healthy development and healthy choices.

Parental involvement in school and learning is important for success. Valuing school, ensuring that assignments are done and working with the teacher to ensure that behaviour and work is satisfactory are helpful to young people. The Sparrow Lake Alliance Submission to the Royal Commission on Learning shows that at age 14, how well students do in school (especially language and history), is more related to what is going on in their families than in their schools. (333)

The chart below lists factors that influence children's healthy development as they enter adolescence.

The headings of each column indicate a positive outcome we would like children to achieve.

Under each heading factors are listed that influence that outcome.

Clicking on an underlined influence will open a window containing a list of strategies that schools can implement.

To return to the table, close the new window.

A secure and integrated self-identity

Strong social skills

A commitment to learning and participating in school

The ability to make healthy choices

Adaptability

Supportive home environment

Support of significant others

Supportive learning and living environments

Media

Supportive home environment

Support of significant others

Supportive learning and living environments

Media

Supportive home environment


Support of significant others

Supportive learning and living environments

Media

Supportive home environment

Role models and peer support

Supportive learning and living environments

Media

Supportive home environment

Support of significant others

Supportive learning and living environments



 


High schools, colleges and universities prepare young people for life as adult citizens in many ways. They provide opportunities for them to take responsibility, to make decisions, to prepare for work and to connect in meaningful ways with groups in the community - groups to which they can continue to turn for cultural, recreational and employment experiences. Young adults should leave high school not only with employment-related skills, but also with skills for living.

The chart below lists factors that influence youth's healthy development as they near adulthood.

The headings of each column indicate a positive outcome we would like children to achieve.

Under each heading factors are listed that influence that outcome.

Clicking on an underlined influence will open a window containing a list of strategies that schools can implement.

To return to the table, close the new window.

Prepared for work

Prepared for intimacy and family life

Prepared to participate in community life

Prepared to manage their personal health and well-being

Educational achievement

Opportunities to work and learn work-related skills

Accessible employment opportunities

Opportunities to overcome disadvantages that lead to early school leaving

 

Opportunities to develop an integrated, stable sense of identity

Opportunities to develop positive relationships

Gender and role socialization

Opportunities to overcome circumstances that lead to troubled relationships


Opportunities to make a meaningful contribution

Opportunities to learn life skills, respect for others and civic skills

 


Capacity for self-care

Influence and social support of significant others

Supportive learning, living and working environments

Media


 




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