‘Schools that prioritise wellbeing, perform better than exam factories’, says Sir Anthony Seldon, the former Headmaster of Wellington College and the Vice Chancellor of the University of Buckingham and co-founder of Action for Happiness, an organisation that works to boost wellbeing.
There should be a “wellbeing league table” for schools, so parents can choose one that’s best suited to their child. Failure to create the table would result in “avoidable suffering in young people. The evidence is totally clear that wellbeing interventions enhance wellbeing and allow students and young people to cope best with problems”.
“As long as the only metric on which schools are being assessed is their exam performance, our schools will never have the incentive to take wellbeing as seriously as they should.”
“It is perfectly clear to me as a head of schools for 20 years that parents will pay more heed to the wellbeing tables than to the exam league tables. “They know, even if the government doesn’t, that schools that prioritise wellbeing, which includes challenging and stretching students, also builds character and helps them to perform better than those schools which are just exam factories.”
He said a focus on wellbeing and character would improve exam results, but a focus on solely exam results would “diminish” wellbeing. He added: “We now know, much more than we did ten years ago, how to teach wellbeing and character in schools. Running a university now, it has become even clearer to me that by the time students arrive at 18, the damage has been done, and universities are on the back foot. The groundwork needs to be done in schools.”
A Department for Education spokesperson said: “Every young person deserves to grow up feeling supported and confident. That is why we are supporting schools to teach children about mental health and wellbeing through PSHE, and working with them to roll out counselling services”.