Wednesday, 30 April 2008

Monitoring Well-being in Schools



According to the BBC News today, there are plans afoot to make UK schools monitor children's well-being, as well as their exam results.

On closer inspection of the source report in the Guardian, 18 new social targets are being proposed, among them:

* bullying
* teenage pregnancy rates
* pupil's drug problems
* criminal records
* obesity levels.

Apparently the move is part of a government attempt to reduce drug use, and the teenage pregnancy rate (ours is the highest in Europe). How setting new targets for schools is going to achieve this I'm not entirely sure. 'What gets measured gets managed' say some business people. OK, but that's a long way away from 'what gets measured gets managed well'.

Incidentally, the above 5 measures are not well-being measures, strictly speaking. The assumption being made by the government (wrongly) is that if you reduce what is negative (ill-being) you automatically increase what is positive (well-being). Personally, I think we'd have far more of a positive effect if we actually focussed on what makes children flourish in the first place.

If you have any views on this, I'd love to hear them.

2 comments:

Peanutlion said...

One of the most interesting aspects of this is the government's intention to test them through surveys by inspectors. Having gone through an OFSTED this week it's always amazing to hear what the students represent to OFSTED. Like anyone, they want to come across in the best possible way to strangers and they're highly unlikely to talk about experiences of bullying or pregnancy or emotional difficulties with an inspector! They struggle to do this with some of their most trusted adult relations.
I'm also intrigued about bullying. While it is a horrible experience at the time if children are taught to deal with it properly and come out the other side triumphantly they are often much stronger individuals for the process. Furthermore there's no indication around how the bullies are dealt with which is far far more important than a simple figure of 'how often it happens'.

Bridget said...

Thanks very much for this comment peanutlion, you make some very good points.

It's curious how teachers are having to take on responsibility for things which before would have come under a social work banner.

As for bullying - this is a good point - I read recently that one of the reasons kids are growing up so troubled / more prone to depression and other mental illnesses is because they are i) too protected from negative experiences, or ii) not encouraged to develop resilience or take risks. No way am I condoning bullying, but the question does need to be asked (and answered!) how can children learn to be resilient (and it's a life skill like any other) without actually experiencing disappointment/ sadness/ anger / failure and so on. Any thoughts?

BTW I'm starting a project on Teachers' Well-being - please do email me on brigetat10consultingdotcodotuk and I'll send you some details.

Bridget