Developing the Wellbeing Bubble

The power of student survey data and student co-design.

On this page:

The power of data

Wellbeing@School (external link)survey data and the college’s existing bullying prevention work formed the starting point for developing the Wellbeing Bubbles(external link).

Aotea College has been conducting the annual Wellbeing@School student and staff surveys since 2012. In 2016, Aotea College took an innovative approach and formed a team of 60 volunteer student peer supporters to look at the student survey data, discuss the results and identify what was most important to students. One of the key findings students wanted to address was that, whilst teachers viewed themselves as approachable, students found it difficult to approach staff about bullying behaviour.

Watch why they put the data directly into students’ hands and the impact it had for students and staff.

The power of data

Video icon

Beyond student voice: co-design and co-construction

Stage 1

From a group of 60 students who looked at the student survey data, 12 students stepped forward and formed the Student Wellbeing Team with the vision ‘for students, by students, in partnership with staff.’

Their first task was to look at the school’s existing bullying prevention and response processes. In particular, the students wanted to focus on the difference between how much students felt they could approach teachers, and the teachers’ view that students could approach them – in general, school staff tend to underestimate the amount of bullying in the school and overestimate the frequency and success of their efforts to address it.

The existing processes for responding to bullying set out two possible pathways for students – self-help and support, or a formal complaints process. The students’ viewed only two pathways for help as too restrictive.

Students identified a gap and the need for more options that recognised students’ different circumstances and needs. They discussed other pathways, such as talking to a trusted teacher, connecting with student peer support or linking with a wellbeing professional, and the idea of the Wellbeing Bubble was formed.

Stage 2

The student team then met with staff to present their ideas. A ‘speed dating’ session with over 60 teachers was organised – groups of three to four students, moving around clusters of staff, with each group of students presenting an alternative way to respond to bullying behaviour.

Students and staff were briefed on what to expect and how to approach the meeting. Open and respectful enquiry was encouraged – the aim was for everyone to learn more about the other’s point of view and ask curious questions such as “tell me more…”, “help me understand…,” and “what do you mean?”

This work focused on helping teachers understand students’ experience of bullying behaviour and what students need as support, as well as gathering teachers’ views on the issue. It began the process of co-constructing the Wellbeing Bubble as an approach to bullying prevention.

Watch what student voice and co-design means at Aotea College.

The impact of student voice

Video icon

Whole-school approach

Student leadership and co-design

Student data from the 2016 Wellbeing@School survey was also discussed widely by the School Leadership Team, academic Heads of Department and Deans, and evaluated at HOD and Dean planning days.

This has strengthened a whole school approach where all staff are involved in bullying prevention and student wellbeing.  The Student Wellbeing Team has now grown to include Years 10 to 13 students. Heads of Departments and Deans are directly connected with students from the Student Wellbeing Team, who together set wellbeing goals and co-construct how they will work towards them.  Bullying prevention and student wellbeing is a priority for school leaders, who in turn champion change across the teaching body. In addition, data and progress on student wellbeing is regularly reported to the Board of Trustees.

Teaching and curriculum

Student data from the Wellbeing@School survey is also linked to the curriculum, in particular NCEA Level 2 Health curriculum. Students have used survey data in wellbeing assignments (e.g. on student stress), which in turn have informed the work of the Student Wellbeing Team and the co-construction of the Wellbeing Bubble. Student assignments on wellbeing can also earn credits towards NCEA Level 2.

Watch what a whole-school approach means for school leaders at Aotea College.

The Whole School Approach: embedding student wellbeing

Video icon


Developing the Wellbeing Bubble has allowed students and staff to make connections and build stronger relationships – open discussions between staff and students on wellbeing issues are increasingly a part of the College culture. This in turn has established an environment in which staff can be aware of bullying and wellbeing issues early, and can respond quickly before issues escalate.

The Wellbeing Bubble has connected curriculum with pastoral concerns, with curriculum leaders having ownership of student wellbeing. Teachers feel more confident dealing with wellbeing issues, and students are more comfortable talking to teachers.

Watch student and staff talk about the benefits of the Wellbeing Bubble.

Outcomes: better relationships, improved wellbeing

Video icon