Extensive evaluation: pupil and student welfare has been enhanced after the en-forcement of the Pupil and Student Welfare Act, but the development work is far from over

Suvi Skantz

The Pupil and Student Welfare Act has enhanced pupil and student welfare in many respects and improved the overall state of pupil and student welfare in pre-primary and basic education, upper secondary education and vocational education and training. However, there is still work to be done in, for example, strengthening communal pupil and student welfare, improving the welfare skills of teaching personnel and making the availability of pupil and student welfare services and the sufficiency of personnel equal.

In 2016 and 2017, the Finnish Education Evaluation Centre (FINEEC) evaluated the Pupil and Student Welfare Act (1287/2013) as commissioned by the Ministry of Education and Culture.

The evaluation was targeted at all education and teaching providers, a non-probability sample of pre-primary education units and a probability sample of schools providing basic education and upper secondary schools. The evaluation covered a total of 1,200 student welfare steering groups, pupil and student welfare groups or education providers, a total of 25,600 pupils and students (fifth and eighth-graders in basic education and second-year students in upper secondary education and vocational education and training) as well as 15 representatives of authorities and stakeholders.

Communal pupil and student welfare not very visible in everyday life of schools and educational institutions

One of the key goals of the Pupil and Student Welfare Act was to shift the focal point of pupil and student welfare towards communal and preventive welfare that offers early support. According to the evaluation results, the emphasis of communal pupil and student welfare has increased and the arrangement of communal welfare has been enhanced across all educational levels even though the focal point of welfare has not yet clearly been shifted from individual to communal welfare. The arrangement of communal pupil and student welfare has major variation between schools and educational institutions. The corrective measures of pupil and student welfare have not been reduced.

– Resources should be targeted at communal pupil and student welfare across all educational levels. It is important to secure the enabling of communal operating culture. This is especially important in the reform of vocational education and training, Project Manager Tarja Frisk states.

Slight improvement in the availability of pupil and student welfare services, however, the availability of psychologist’s services is one of the key challenges

The availability of pupil and student welfare services primarily remained unchanged across all educational levels. The availability of nurse’s services and curator services was primarily considered good. Even though the act reasonably enhanced the availability of curator and psychologist’s services, their availability as well as that of physician’s services varied across all educational levels. There are still pre-primary education units, schools and educational institutions in which the availability of said services is weak. The availability of psychologist’s services is one of the key challenges in pupil and student welfare.

According to the evaluation results, pupils and students primarily receive pupil and student welfare services within the time limits specified by the act. This, however, is also one of the aspects that varies between regions and municipalities. Pupils and students usually found it easy to ask for help with their various concerns. Receiving help was considered easier than asking for help.

Improvement in pupils’ and students’ opportunities of influence

Student welfare steering groups, pupil and student welfare groups and education providers evaluated the state of pupil and student welfare to be better after the act entered into force than before the act (Figure 1). After the act, pupil and student welfare work has become more systematic and multidisciplinary across all educational levels.

– After the Pupil and Student Welfare Act, the opportunities of influence of pupils and students, especially pupil and student associations, in the school and educational institution communities have been improved. In addition, the data protection of pupils and students has improved. Pupils and students found their opportunities of taking part and influencing important, Project Manager Anna-Mari Summanen tells.

Equality not achieved between educational institutions or regions

Even though pupil and student welfare has been enhanced in many respects after the enactment of the Pupil and Student Welfare Act, there is still a great deal of work to be done in, for example, strengthening communal pupil and student welfare, improving the welfare skills of teaching personnel and making the availability of pupil and student welfare services and the sufficiency of personnel equal between schools, educational institutions and different parts of the country. In addition, pupil and student welfare registers, recording policies and the variations in the interpretation of the act are in need of specification. Throughout the educational levels, it was observed that there is still much to do in order to achieve the more far-reaching objectives of the Pupil and Student Welfare Act. Such objectives include reducing the need for child protection and mental health services for children and youth.

The evaluation is related to the assignment given by Parliament to the Ministry of Education and Culture to monitor the impact of the Pupil and Student Welfare Act, entered into force on 1 August 2014, on the effectiveness and intensification of pupil and student welfare, the availability of services and the sufficiency of personnel. The evaluation was directed at pre-primary and basic education, upper secondary education and vocational education and training, in other words, all the educational levels covered by the scope of the act.

Additional information:

Evaluation of the implementation of the Pupil and Student Welfare Act in general education: Project Manager Anna-Mari Summanen, anna-mari.summanen@karvi.fi, tel. +358 (0)29 533 5523

Evaluation of the implementation of the Pupil and Student Welfare Act in vocational education and training: Project Manager Tarja Frisk, tarja.frisk@karvi.fi, tel. +358 (0)29 533 5504

Online publications:

The reports are available on the website of the Finnish Education Evaluation Centre: http://www.karvi.fi/