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07 January 2015 - The Conversation- All secondary schools could do with a head of well-being

Rachel Dodge

Children’s character and well-being looks set to be a central education issue going into the 2015 general election. Getting out of the starting blocks in mid-December, Nicky Morgan, the secretary of state for education, unveiled a £3.5m fund to offer character-building classes, insisting that fostering resilience and “grit” is just as important as helping pupils achieve good grades.

But what is the best way of making sure all schools take well-being seriously? A new discussion paper published by the 2020health think tank has suggested that appointing a head of well-being in every state secondary school could be the answer.

Researchers Julia Manning and Jon Paxman argue that schools' current health and well-being strategies are making little or no impact in a significant number of schools and that a head of well-being could help address this.

The researchers quote a 2013 report from England’s school inspectorate Ofsted which estimated that the quality of personal, social, health and economic (PSHE) education was below acceptable standards in 40% of schools. Ofsted itself had faced criticism in 2012 for casting well-being into the dustbin by making it less obvious in its new inspection framework.

A 2014 report from the Legatum Institute stated that after parents, schools are the next big influence in the way a child will develop. Although some recent evidence is encouraging, with teenage pregnancy at an all-time low and reduced cases of obesity in young teenage girls, the picture of pupil well-being in England is not wholly positive.

The 2020health paper highlights worrying data on undiagnosed mental health problems, high rates of sexually transmitted infections, weight problems, poor diet and low engagement in physical activity among children and young people.