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Creating a sense of place and belonging in schools

‘Belonging’ is that sense of being somewhere you can be confident that you will fit in and be safe in your identity: a feeling of being at home in a place.

The NEU commissioned research, 'Place and Belonging in School: why it matters today' offers examples of how intentional whole-school practice can help create a climate of welcome and belonging in school. A purposeful approach which brings everyone on board, enriches the lives of all concerned and sets the school on a positive and upward trajectory.

The context for the research was one of growing concerns about the rapid increase in rates of exclusions and alienation, and the impact of this on young people’s well-being mental health and life chances

This report illustrates what is possible – even in the most challenging of contexts – and how rewarding and joyful this is.

The Belonging ChallengeThe Belonging Opportunity
1 in 4 young people feel they do not belong in school: a figure which is rising.A sense of belonging has been linked to:
Children from disadvantaged communities are twice as likely as their more advantaged peers to feel they don’t belong and four times more likely to be excluded.Increased student motivation.
Black Caribbean and special educational needs children are more likely to be excluded than their peers.Increased staff well-being, motivation and retention.
Young people who experience a sense of exclusion from school or society seek ‘belongingness’ elsewhere.Reductions in student absenteeism.
-Other positive social outcomes e.g. health and well-being.
-Improved academic achievement.
-A growing sense of agency in students and staff: a belief that they can make a difference.

The research findings have been organised around three interconnected themes. These are as follows:

Belonging and leadership

The NEU’s ‘Belonging’ research highlights that where school leaders developed an intentional approach focused on changing learning and teaching.

Belonging and culture

The NEU’s ‘Belonging’ research puts relationships between students and staff at the heart of the cycle of connectivity where they are heard and seen for who they are.

Belonging and agency

The NEU’s ‘Belonging’ research highlights that staff retention is far greater where teachers know that they can make a difference and they have a strong sense of personal and professional agency in their school.

Get involved

Share best practice with other members on how your school is creating a sense of place and belonging and register your interest here to be more involved.

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