Speak to any teacher or head teacher and the well-being of pupils is a priority. Speak to any charity working with young people and the same is true.
Back in 2007, the UK did shamefully in a report by UNICEF on the well-being of children in developed countries. We finished rock bottom. Since then, there’s been a lot of activity – the Prime Minister has heralded well-being as central to the government’s policy agenda, Every Child Matters has been embedded across children’s services, and it’s become a serious business in schools. Among charities, The Children’s Society is leading the way in establishing well-being as a key part of understanding what makes a good childhood.
Bafflingly, it doesn’t seem like Ofsted – the inspectors of schools and childcare settings across England – agrees with everybody else. It’s new inspection framework for schools, which came into force on 1st January, omits any mention of well-being.
Writing in the Guardian, journalist Stephanie Northern, acknowledges the contradictions in this. ‘While the Office for National Statistics is busy compiling the country’s first wellbeing tables’, she writes, ‘the Department for Education has written it out of the new inspection framework’… ‘the word “wellbeing”, which ran like a river through the previous Ofsted framework, has disappeared.’
It seems like those schools which offer good or excellent care and support will no longer get credit, and that the link between pupils well-being and achievement is simply being ignored.
How this plays out matters. Ofsted and schools have rarely seen eye-to-eye but this is a point of pure disagreement for most teachers. As Ruth Harker, principal of Shenley Academy in Birmingham and an outstanding school, says in the Guardian, students need to be “happy, safe, supported and inspired to achieve” – in that order.
You can read Stephanie Northern’s comment piece in Education Guardian here.