Country Life isn’t a magazine that receives many mentions in this blog, indeed, this may be the first time it has appeared here. However, I did note that it has increased its sales over the past four years and that their Christmas 2015 issue recorded bumper sales. The BBC are also running a three part series about the editor and life in the countryside. Last week’s episode had a moving story of the farmer facing bovine TB in his herd of milking cows.
Anyway, this blog isn’t here to sell magazines, but to note that Country Life recently ran an interview with the newly appointed head teacher of one of the country’s private schools; Wellington College. In the course of that interview the new head teacher talked about what are coming to be known as ‘well-being’ lessons. He clearly saw them as an important part of a rounded curriculum. I also recently heard a presentation by a head of department at Dulwich College – another private school – with responsibility for well-being in the curriculum. At that school they also regard well-being as important for the staff members as well as their students.
This set me to wondering whether the DfE sees well-being as an important part of the curriculum in schools funded by the government. My guess is, with the current emphasis on the EBacc subjects, Ministers haven’t really grasped the wider responsibilities of schools in helping young people take key steps along life’s increasingly complicated journey. You cannot train to be a teacher of ‘well-being’, and government has steadfastly refused to make PSHE a compulsory part of the curriculum.
Now, it may be that government thinks this is entirely the role of parents and, while those either with enough cash to pay for private education or able to win scholarships can ask for this as part of the package they are paying for, it isn’t the duty of the State to provide it as part of their education offering. Such a position flies in the face of an education system where pastoral care has always been seen as an important part of education, at least for as long as I have been involved with education.
If government isn’t interested in the well-being of those it educates, it should be interested and involved in the well-being of those that deliver education. Among the many statistics the government doesn’t collect is, I suspect, is one about the trends in occupational health of the school workforce and especially of trends in mental health referrals, as opposed to just days lost through absence. Surely, any good employer ought to know what is happening, at least in the academies and free schools it directly funds.
The obvious starting place for action is the teachers’ workload and especially the twin areas of marking and preparation. An understanding of what is necessary and what is just fear of Ofsted might be a useful place for Ministers to start, rather than concentrating civil servant time and energy on deciding when and where it is appropriate to use an exclamation mark.