Greetings and welcome to the first blog post for Flourishing at School (FAS). My name is Jason van Schie and I am the Managing Director of People Diagnostix. People Diagnostix is a firm of psychologists based in Perth, Western Australia, and our goal is to assist people of all ages to optimise their wellbeing. While initially focusing on local interventions (typically delivered face-to-face) we are now interested in harnessing technology to make high-quality wellbeing information and support accessible, regardless of geographic or financial constraint.
The purpose of the FAS blog is to share information with schools interested in optimising the mental health of students and staff. Contributors are all users of the platform and therefore able to share their own experience what works well (and how to learn from their mistakes!).
As FAS is now used across the globe, you will find an international flavour to the contributors – starting with Australia, the UK, and Germany. Topics will focus on two subject areas: 1) how schools can maximise what they get out of the FAS platform, and 2) practical positive education/wellbeing advice. We consider this blog to be in the information-sharing spirit of the now well-established positive education community.
I thought I would use this first blog post to briefly introduce People Diagnostix’ own positive education journey.
In the beginning…
We started development of “Flourishing at School” in 2014 after being approached by a local government secondary school with a problem. School representatives had been to Geelong Grammar and completed training at their institute on how to embed positive education, specifically using the PERMA-H model (an extension of Martin Seligman’s PERMA model applied to education). This school had started “doing” positive education about two years prior to our first meeting with them. The issue was, they had no way of measuring whether their wellbeing interventions were having the desired impact.
After searching for an available student survey to measure wellbeing according to the PERMA-H model, the school had no luck. Knowing about the work People Diagnostix had been doing in the wellbeing area, they approached us to develop a bespoke tool for them.
After doing our own research, we quickly found that many schools implementing wellbeing initiatives were using the same PERMA-H model. In fact, soon after starting work on the measurement tool, NSW Public Schools published their wellbeing framework, which uses very much PERMA-H language. Clearly, a tool aligned with this model would be hugely beneficial for many other schools.
We, therefore, negotiated with the school for us to retain ownership of the survey so we could continue to develop and refine it and make it available to all schools with an interest in measuring wellbeing at an individual and collective level.
This culminated in a 2016 study completed in collaboration with Murdoch University researchers to further refine, validate and create a large normative sample for the survey. 15 schools and more than 7,500 students participated in the research, with a summary of the main findings being available in the assessment manual. This research has been submitted to a peer-reviewed journal for publication in early 2018.
Making wellbeing accessible
The goal was always to make FAS accessible, so in early 2017 we turned to a local Perth software development firm to create the software platform. Going to software meant that we could greatly reduce our administrative burden, increase security for end users, and link individual users to high-quality self-development resources to give them the tools required to stay mentally healthy and optimise wellbeing.
We officially launched the FAS software platform to Australian schools in August 2017, and as of January 2018 there have been approximately three dozen schools either already use the platform or signed up to use it during the 2018 year. At the conclusion of 2018 we updated our normative sample (as we aim to do at the end of each year). It now includes more than 12,000 student responses and more than 200 staff.
Earlier this month we officially launched the UK version of FAS, complete with a UK Microsoft Azure hosted solution. We have been fortunate to have the majority of schools on the HMC wellbeing group commit to being the first users of the UK version and look forward to collaborating more with this group as FAS continues to go global.
We are committed to continual improvement of the FAS platform. I hope this new blog provides you with valuable information to enhance your wellbeing efforts in your own school. We are always keen to receive feedback about where we can improve, and are always willing to accept software feature requests.
If you would like to start a conversation, you can reach me and the rest of the team at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Yours in good health,
Jason van Schie
Jason van Schie | People Diagnostix
Jason van Schie is the Managing Director of People Diagnostix and has been working as a registered psychologist across Australia for the past decade. He holds a Masters degree in Applied Occupational Psychology and works at the cutting edge of wellbeing research and application with some of the most respected organisations and schools in Australia and internationally. Jason is an Independent Director on the Board of Australia’s Sleep Health Foundation and is also Board member of Rehoboth Christian College.