“Oh no! FAS shows nobody is flourishing!”

This more-than-slightly worried comment was the start of a long conversation I had with a good friend.  She coordinates the administration of FAS at her school, and just had the first set of results come back. Much to her horror, the whole school results had nothing in the outer ring, which is tantalisingly labelled ‘School Flourishing Areas’.  Our chat covered a fair amount of ground, including the structure of the profile, ways to draw useful info from it.

Firstly, structure. The whole school profile is, well, the median scaled scores of the whole school. If the median ends up being in the average range for any of the 14 survey scales, this is normal and a good thing, and to be expected.  Secondly, the base data for the FAS is drawn from leading independent secondary schools across Australia– ‘average’ for this group is a good place to be [editor’s note: the average ICSEA for the initial normative sample was over 1100. Norm data is updated annually, and the average ICSEA rating is slowly coming down and becoming more representative as more schools in lower socio-economic brackets start to use FAS with students]. Further, it’s not an indication that there are fewer than normal students flourishing in a particular area – it’s an at-a-glance indication of the full picture, and can mask fluctuations across cohorts.

As high performing schools, we tend to get somewhat hung up on needing to hit whatever metric looks to us like ‘winning’ (or is that just me?)  However, when it comes to FAS, it’s more beneficial to consider the whole school profile a casual first pass at the data, and to be curious about what we are seeing.  Any hunches or concerns we form when we see this need to be confirmed with extra info – by drilling down a bit more.

As it happened, when my friend drilled down to the cohort level, it became clear that, actually, a number of cohorts were ‘flourishing’ – had reached the FAS outer ring – simply in different wellbeing areas.  Year 11s were high on accomplishment – but low on sleep.  Some younger year levels were high on positive emotions and relationships, and lower on accomplishment.  Year 12s looked to be average or low on everything.

How do we get useful information out of it?  At this stage, we started generating guesses about what we were seeing.  Were the Year 11s sacrificing sleep for achievement? Were the Year 12s just generally tired of the slog through the year?  When was the test administered?  What was happening in that cohort at that time?  After thinking about students from different cohorts that she knew, my friend became more and more relaxed – what we were seeing was reflected in her experience; it made sense that the Year 12s were rating their wellbeing lower than other cohorts when they were mid-course through the marathon of Year 12.

The question then became: how are we supporting Year 12s at the moment? Far from being ‘bad’ that they were scoring in lower ranges, it was A) healthy and a good sign that the students felt comfortable to share through the FAS where they were actually at (in a selfie-generation that too often feels pressured to present themselves as ‘OK’), B) we all have crappy times in life and maybe that’s alright, and C) it was an opportunity to promote self-care with the Year 12 students in a more targeted way.

Some of the hunches we’d generated about the other cohorts didn’t ring as true to my friend – she decided she’d drill down even further by asking year coordinators and some key teachers what they were seeing in class (don’t underestimate teacher observations – they do have eyes in the back of their heads, after all…) She would even look at some individual student profiles and was considering pros and cons of having pastoral care class teachers review individual reports also.

At the end of the conversation, what had been most useful was considering the data gathered by the FAS as a starting point for a considered wellbeing discussion; one type of information in the midst of a range of sources she could draw upon.  My friend felt that by planning to involve others in the discussion around the data, she was also building up a body of champions within her school who would later be even more willing to participate in strategies for helping support students.

And, lastly, she was able to laugh at the idea that ‘nobody was flourishing’!

[Editor’s note: Cohort summary reports are typically a more valuable source of information than the whole school report. It is recommended that when generating a cohort summary report through the FAS platform, that the matching cohort norm group is chosen. This will better reflect the current wellbeing state than comparison against the total norm group.]

Nahum Kozak | Psychologist
Nahum is a Psychologist who uses the power of story, humour, and data to help improve organisations.  Nahum has a wealth of experience from school and corporate contexts – as Head of Positive Education and Senior School Counsellor (John Paul College), Corporate Coach (including experience with Griffith’s Work and Organisational Resiliency Centre) and Youth Minister (in Catholic Schools across Australia). He holds a B.A.(Psychology), M.Ed.(Educational Research: Theory and Practice), and is currently undertaking a second Masters in Organisational Psychology. He has presented at schools and conferences around Australia, and has had his research on wellbeing, social connection and sleep quality published in the International Journal of Social Psychiatry. Nahum is passionate about building healthy, happy organisations.