The essential conditions are factors or circumstances that influence the likelihood that comprehensive school health comes to life in a school authority, school, or classroom.

Developed in Alberta and validated across Canada, the essential conditions recognize that schools are busy places, with many competing priorities and interests. They encourage us to tap into existing infrastructure, practices, and innovations in order to make health a natural part of the school experience.

At a time when COVID-19 has caused disruption and uncertainty at school, attention to the essential conditions helps us stay grounded in what works. 

The essential conditions include:

Core conditions

Students as change agents

Students are the heart of school health, and their voices, enthusiasm, and energy propel action. They’re powerful change agents for peers, family, and the home environment. Students are the reason for school health, so we can’t make it happen without them.

School-specific autonomy

It’s important that individual schools have the flexibility to take action in ways that are tailored and responsive to their strengths, needs, and cultures. This means pairing school-specific evidence with customized actions, which also increases sense of ownership.

Administrative leadership

School administrators—like principals and assistant principals—are critical influencers in schools. School health transformations are most likely when administrators are actively involved in shifting school culture, rather than just offering passive support.

Higher-level support

School authority leaders—like superintendents, directors of learning, and other decision-makers—set the tone at the system level. When they have a clear and focused vision around student health, it’s a game-changer in terms of resource allocation, commitment, and opportunity.

Dedicated champion(s) to engage staff

Every school has them—those incredible teachers and school staff whose energy, commitment, and enthusiasm for health is contagious! They often kick-start school health efforts, and work hard to grow and sustain support among their colleagues.

Community support 

Strong partnerships between education, health, community, and home bolster school health. Networks of support can strengthen programming, leverage resources, and relieve pressures.

Quality and use of evidence

School authorities and schools collect many forms of data—attendance records, school climate surveys, observations, student voice, and more.  Collecting and using high-quality data and evidence can guide and inform intentional priority-setting, planning, and decision-making.

Professional development

Professional development—sometimes called professional learning—ensures that all adults in the school system have ongoing opportunities to build their knowledge, skills, and confidence in school health, and understand how it aligns with their role.

Contextual conditions

  • Readiness and understanding of comprehensive school health and its value
  • Existing connections between the school and local partners and services
  • The type and nature of funding and project support
  • How much time is given for health to be fully integrated into school life

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