Published on: 28 Apr 2017

It seems as if those working on the front lines of mental health and wellbeing are losing patience, and perhaps rightly so

This Week: Is the wellbeing of learners suffering in the current framework?

The OECD reported last week that test anxiety of UK students is the third highest of 72 countries, suggesting that the mental health and wellbeing of learners is suffering in the current educational framework devised to deliver better (higher) learning outcomes. But has our pursuit of academic excellence been placed in competition with the wellbeing of young learners - where only one can prevail? I was encouraged to see that this is very much back in the spotlight after several articles and reports highlighting the issue were published again in recent days. The attempt to raise the profile of mental health and wellbeing (MHWB) can only serve as a further call to action to address this balance.

Just over a year ago our own SEND Publisher, Tom Guy, blogged on this very topic reminding us all that “the (then) new Special Educational Needs and Disability Code of Practice places mental health well within the teacher’s jurisdiction. With ‘social, emotional and mental health difficulties’ now defined as one of the four broad areas of need and support, the wellbeing of every single child in the class has become part of the teacher’s responsibility. Teachers are now required to educate the whole child”, thus sending an official bulletin to teachers that making MHWB a focus within the scope of their planning and teaching was now a more of a priority for all learners, rather than just for those identified as being within the SEND cohort.

So it’s no surprise that the report published earlier this week by the charity YoungMinds again calls for action on this issue as Ofsted’s framework seems not to have made much of an attempt to address it. The charity makes five key recommendations within the report, the foremost of which is to “update existing legislation, so that wellbeing is enshrined as a fundamental priority for schools”. In their report, the charity goes even further and calls for all parties to make commitments to act upon the issue within their respective manifestos in the run up to the election. Also this week a group of charities concerned with the MH of children has written to the Prime Minister compelling her to “rebalance the education system” to focus not merely on academic achievement but also on wellbeing. 

It seems as if those working on the front lines of mental health and wellbeing are losing patience, and perhaps rightly so. From time to time there are issues within education that become clear to us all. However, the size of the challenge presented in addressing an issue that affects all learners across all year groups can seem immense in scope and lead to delay in action. The announcement of a snap election has presented an opportunity for all political parties to nail their colours to the mast on MHWB for young people and commit once and for all to taking swift and decisive action.

By Shane Rae, Head of Publishing, GL Assessment

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