Huge demand for Kaleidoscope highlights the urgent need for The Song Room’s wellbeing program
Since The Song Room launched Kaleidoscope in March this year the response has been phenomenal. Over 100 Victorian schools have applied to take part in the 10-week wellbeing program that will assist over 10,000 primary school students through arts learning modules across Term 2 – 4. This huge response highlights the need in schools for evidence-based social and emotional learning programs that will strengthen mental health, school engagement and community connectedness.
The applicants tell a desperate story of students whose wellbeing and learning have been affected by the pandemic. One principal says, “data from the last two years shows since COVID-19 we’ve had a 60% increase in students accessing Mental Health Plans due to depression, anxiety, self-harm.” Another reports that, “absenteeism is a particular problem in our earlier years, for students who never really had an opportunity to engage with school on campus during the pandemic due to social and technological disadvantage.” A third principal says that some students now have “a genuine sense of fear when it comes to change.”
As part of the Victorian Government’s Positive Start in 2022 initiative, Kaleidoscope is available to primary schools across Victoria to boost student health and wellbeing in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Low fee-paying independent and government schools have applied to participate, with 46% of the schools from regional and rural areas and 54% from metro Melbourne. The schools are calling out for the program to assist at-risk individual students, whole classes, and for some, programs to support their entire school communities to reconnect and rebuild.
Strong Arts programs in schools not only provide students with a powerful medium through which to process trauma through stories, images and metaphors, they also enable students to participate in shared creative processes building community, belonging and collective wellbeing.
The Kaleidoscope program utilises the Arts as a vehicle through which to build student social and emotional skills through a trauma-informed approach. The sequential development of these skills at school is essential as they serve as protective factors for mental health and half of all mental health challenges in Australia emerge before the age of 14. 1 Additionally, as a result of the pandemic, teachers and principals in the Kaleidoscope program have reported that many of their students social and emotional skills are 6 months to more than 12 months behind when mapped to the Victorian Curriculum.
Led by experienced Song Room Teaching Artists and Wellbeing Experts, the Kaleidoscope program aims to positively impact students and support school communities to flourish. Students will increase self-awareness, social awareness, relationship skills and responsible decision making to help them build confidence, resilience and connectedness to their learning. Through rich arts learning experiences they will also increase their arts subject skills and knowledge and develop a sense of belonging to their school community.
This program comes at a critical time. Research suggests that the ‘provision of sustained social and emotional learning programs makes a significant contribution to recovery’ and that ‘the practice of positive relationships and the teaching of social learning should be a key focus within all schools supporting communities post emergency’.2 At The Song Room are driven to address the impact of the pandemic on learning environments across Victoria through our partnership with schools and the Department of Education and Training Victoria.
- Cahill, H., Dadvand, B., Shlezinger, K., Romei, K., Farrelly, A., & Ricerche. (2020). Strategies for supporting student and teacher wellbeing post-emergency. 12. 23-38. 10.32076/RA12108. p. 34.