Flat Earth Learning

worst foto

“Welcome to the science lab, boys and girls. Today’s Learning Outcome is on the board: by the end of the lesson you will all be able to appreciate the shape of the Earth and analyse various theories as to how this shape was formed. I’m going to be the sage on the stage for thirty seconds and then we’ll do some discovery learning whereby you’ll walk around the school, in groups, and report back what gradient measures you have taken, as well as your qualitative analysis, and what these might tell us about the shape of the Earth.

As you all know,  the Earth is a big, flat circle, with scary sea-monsters near the edge bits. The sun travels around the Earth, giving us night and day…..”

Sounds far-fetched, doesn’t it? You’d be worried if your child came home from school relating that the science teacher told them that the moon was made of cheese, or that evolution was a dubious theory. What if their SPHE teacher gave them a questionnaire to help them determine their dominant humour, and asked them to form groups with other members of their “humour” style and discuss how this was affecting their health and learning? It’s unlikely your response would be: “You got Sanguine? That is so cool. Did you know that I’m a Sanguine too? Not like your Dad, though. He’s more Phlegmatic. Totally different….”

You wouldn’t think it was cool, because you recognise an out-dated theory when you see one. How would you feel about this test, and this activity?

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These pages are from a brand-new textbook, intended to be used when teaching SPHE as part of the new Wellbeing programme.  Here a similar example from another new textbook

mentor WB II

And more, from a third publishing company

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The problem with these images is that the information they contain is completely false. The theory of “learning styles” has been described by Professor Paul Kirschner as nothing more than an “urban legend”, and in this letter to the Guardian leading scientists have argued for its complete removal from schooling. It could be that offerings from the other educational companies feature similar content, so I won’t say here who publishes these books.  Neither do I want to imply that the publishers did not carry out due diligence in ensuring that the content of their textbooks reflects the curriculum; it would be unfair to blame the publishers when the source of their information is the Department of Education itself.

The source of the Learning Style quiz is the Departmental website http://www.sess.ie. It is found in materials that were presented to school leaders at a conference in 2009. Now, in educational terms, 2009 is a long time ago and many of the people believed in learning styles at that time no longer do. Nevertheless these materials are still present on their website and have been used, entirely reasonably,  as resources by the authors of the textbooks.

Here is the Learning Styles questionnaire that forms the basis of that found in three of the textbooks I looked at.  Here is advice for teachers on  how to help children with special educational needs. “Establish the student’s preferred learning style” is number 3 on the list. These are from the SESS website: there is a link to the questionnaire on the Junior Cycle website that is dated April 2015. The PDST also feature learning styles in some of their material, such as here and here, even though they do caution about their use here. The section of the PDST responsible for technology recommends increased use of ICT in classrooms because it “can offer an opportunity to accommodate differing learning styles” . The department-sponsored Scoilnet website offers a learning-styles quiz resource that was uploaded in April 2017, and the Departmental website itself promotes the LCA programme as being suitable  “for those whose needs, aptitudes and learning styles are not fully catered for by the other two Leaving Certificate programmes.”  (The LCA is a useful and scandalously under-resourced programme, but the link with learning styles is entirely spurious.)

The most recent reference to learning styles in the Junior Cycle Irish Specification, a document published only months ago and which first years of 2017-2018 will be the first cohort to undergo. As pupils progress through the specification:  “They gradually become familiar with their own learning strategies and personal style of learning.”

This is Irish education policy in 2017. One of the most discredited fads of the twentieth century is a central tenet of reforms on which we are only just embarking. Even leaving out the subjection of children to the ludicrous VAK sorting-hat, the notion of personal learning styles – of each child learning in a particular way – and of the benefits of personalised instruction and personalised study strategies runs right through the Junior Cycle Framework.  For example, the theory has been used to justify portfolio-based assessment “Portfolios provide benefits for students with different preferred learning styles and capacity for oral feedback from teachers.” [italics mine] One of the guidance-related learning outcomes from the Wellbeing specification states that children must be able to “recognise their own ways of learning and their learning habits, interests, strengths and weaknesses”. [italics mine] Elsewhere is this document teachers are exhorted to  “[take] account of the diverse needs and learning approaches of students.” [italics mine] and reminded that schools should “[recognise] students as experts in their own learning”.

The photo below on the left shows where thinking of children as “experts in their own learning” might lead us. The one on the right shows us what can happen when a curriculum specifies that children will reflect on their learning, not what it is that they are actually required to learn.

 

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The photos above  are not relics. They are from new books, published in 2017, and intended for the new programmes that are being rolled out and will be taught to children just leaving primary school and those coming up through primary school. Teacher and psychologist Nick Rose describes learning styles “lack validity” and “provide no pedagogic value whatsoever”. They contradict what cognitive science tells us:

“Children are more alike than different in terms of how they think and learn”

Daniel Willingham, Professor of Psychology at University of Virginia

This neuromyth not just harmless nonsense.It promotes ineffective study methods that introduce and/or widen attainment gaps. One textbook advises “kinaesthetic learners” to “take frequent breaks from study”. Breaks from study are a good idea, but you don’t learn anything during them, and the child who schedules extra breaks because she thinks they’re some kind of strategy is likely to learn less than the child who takes a break at average intervals. It also promotes the false idea that learning should be easy, enjoyable and at the very least feel “natural”. Prematurely asking children to categorise themselves is always a dangerous and counterproductive classroom activity and ironically promotes the antithesis of the “growth mindset” also mentioned in the Wellbeing specification. Most worryingly of all, attempts to assess children’s learning styles seem most prevalent in special needs education within mainstream settings, where they both provide a plausible but false explanation for low attainment, and also promote the adoption of strategies unlikely to lead to real progress.

That a pseudoscientific and completely debunked theory can be printed in  textbooks and taught to children as factual knowledge should worry everyone, including parents. It really is like a science diagram showing a flat Earth and the sun’s orbit around us. It could even be argued to be worse as this false information in one area – SPHE – has the potential to corrupt learning in every single subject from Spanish to Science to Geography. As to how this came to happen, a good place to start might be the Department of Education’s own lack of understanding of – and at times disdain for – knowledge.  We have a curriculum that does not include syllabi that specify the content that children must master. Instead we have broad frameworks that imply content matters less than whether teachers are employing approved progressive methods and children are developing “transferable skills”.

This is what happens when you downgrade knowledge and fail to specify the facts and subject content which with children should be familiar at each stage of their education. A vacuum is created, into which can rush all kinds of nonsense. When there is little culture of using evidence to inform practice, this nonsense is easily found in the materials provided by the department itself. When the time allocated for teaching academic subjects –  wherein there is a vast storehouse of accumulated knowledge built up through centuries –  is cut in favour of nascent “areas of learning”, this makes the vacuum bigger. And when this area of learning is designed to be delivered not by subject experts with degrees in the course content, but by teachers who hold any qualification at all, then you decrease the likelihood that teachers will themselves spot the fake facts and misinformation.

Purging the textbooks of false information is easy. Educating teachers about the pitfalls of neuromyths is more onerous, yet is doable: look for example at the stellar work of Tom Bennett and the ResearchEd movement. The hard part is contemplating the looming disaster of a secondary system that may speak about “high expectations” for all, but by eschewing rigour, evidence and knowledge in favour of engagement, skills and the “learner experience”, risks creating schools that resemble day-care for teenagers. It won’t seem to matter if children spend less time in real lessons than they do floating along in a tide of pseudolearning and obsession with their own subjective viewpoints. Our young people may well leave such schools knowing barely more about the wider world than they did when they entered. And it will be a tragic waste.

For more information on how learning  styles don’t exist, these are a good place to start:

https://www.educationdevelopmenttrust.com/en-GB/our-research/our-research-library~/media/researched/red%20files/briefings/learning-styles.pdf

Daniel Willingham’s FAQ on Learning Styles

 

For information about effective study skills that are based on reputable research and work for everyone, check out The Learning Scientists at www.learningscientists.org

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In Praise of Discovery Learning

“We do not receive wisdom, we must discover it for ourselves, after a journey through the wilderness which no-one else can make for us, which no-one can spare us, for our wisdom  is the point of view from which we come at last to view the world.”

Marcel Proust.

 

How teaching happens matters!

National Council for Curriculum and Assessment

A quick look through the DSE inspectorate reports shows that the popularity of discovery learning is showing no signs of disappearing. One inspection report from March mentions discovery learning twice, recommending that science teachers “should increase the emphasis on discovery learning” and another published last month recommends they “encourage the use of discovery learning by students” and criticises lessons where “too much time was spent on teacher instruction that impacted on discovery learning and student motivation”. A geography inspection report recommends “limiting teacher inputs” .One mathematics inspection praises “a particular focus…inquiry-based learning” and another recommends that “the tasks set should involve more discovery learning and foster independent learning skills”.

This enthusiasm  ignores the growing body of evidence that, when it comes to teaching factual knowledge, discovery learning “ignores the structures of cognitive architecture” and is less effective than teacher-led explicit instruction.  The latest (2015) PISA report found that “teacher-directed instruction” was more effective than minimal guidance, particularly in science, as @greg_Ashman explains here better than I can.

However, there is one area of learning where I think we can embrace discovery learning. In fact, we can embrace it so much that we can all but erase the subject from the curriculum, minimise its impact on the timetable and stop preaching to the kids about it, all without damaging outcomes in this “area of learning”. This is the area of “wellbeing”. *

I have long held the view  that –  while the welfare and safety of children has to be an important concern of schools and teachers –  lessons, talks, activities and programmes that aim to “teach” traits like resilience and grit, or to explain to children the importance of  good habits of self-care, are a pointless waste of time. They are also possibly harmful to children.  Kathryn Ecclestone and Dennis Hayes make this case cogently in their book  “The Dangerous Rise of Therapeutic Education”.

A book that’s very different to “The Dangerous Rise” but that touches tangentially on the same area is  Jonathan Haidt’s “The Happiness Hypothesis : Putting Ancient Wisdom and Philosophy to the test of Modern Science”. Haidt explores how people managed before psychology and how some ideas about human happiness appear in remarkably similar forms in quite separate places and times.  The book, I think, works both ways: it puts the assumptions of modern psychology to the test of ancient wisdom.

Rider-elephant

 

Haidt famously conceived of the image of the “rider and the elephant” as a metaphor for the human mind. The rider can guide the elephant, but only as long as the elephant co-operates, and if the elephant ever does decide to do its own thing, there is very little the rider can do to stop it.  As teachers we focus on the rider, who is, after all, the brains of the operation. The elephant has a brain as well but its skill is in the force of its strength, not its intellectual capacity for reason. Are schools ignoring the elephant and thus failing to “holistically” educate?

I will say yes, and no more so than in the “area of learning” that is wellbeing. Proponents of Wellbeing might say that it is teaching children how to make their riders better control their elephants. Skills like managing  emotions, self-efficacy, how to be motivated, how to be nice are to be taught alongside – and even instead of – how to form the passé composé and calculate the side of a triangle. Discipline systems with even a hint of behaviourism are deemed inferior to restorative approaches that harness children’s cognitive conceptions of right and wrong.  Ironically the drive to teaching tacit knowledge explicitly co-incides with the turn towards teaching explicit knowledge through “discovery learning” where children [theoretically] work out the facts for themselves, acquiring them tacitly with minimal teacher explanation. Where the subjects don’t fit, they must be trimmed like the  ugly sisters’ feet, and where their content does not suit prescribed methods and aims, they must borrow content from areas that do. Following on from this, the time available for the subjects is itself trimmed and time is allocated to content that suits discovery learning but which previously was thought the responsibility of  parents rather than schools, or was understood to consist of the experience of life events and maturation. We end with nothing.

Haidt explains the folly of trying to take the rider off the elephant and educate him in isolation. He cites moral education, which will be familiar to anyone who has taught SPHE which has a module on “making good decisions”. The idea is that children can be trained in a decision-making procedure and then follow this procedure when faced with dilemmas like “how do I withstand the bystander effect when my best friend’s a bully?” and “should I smoke this spliff?”

“After being exposed to hours of case studies, classroom discussions about moral dilemmas, and videos about people who faced dilemmas and made the right choices, the child learns how(not what) to think. Then class ends, the rider gets back on the elephant, and nothing changes…Trying to make children behave ethically by teaching them to reason well is like trying to make a dog happy by wagging its tail.”

What if we have this all wrong? What if explicit knowledge was best taught explicitly and tacit knowledge was best acquired tacitly, through discovery learning where teachers and schools set up a formative learning environment rather than a wellbeing syllabus that will inevitably be largely delivered through chalk and talk  and for which the publishing companies are already producing textbooks?

Many of the  learning outcomes from the Wellbeing guidelines could be better learned through experience than taught didactically. When I say “learned through experience” I do not mean a teacher-devised and managed classroom activity that takes time away from building children’s knowledge base. I mean learned  via the broad experience of school life, including classes on the structure of the atom or the formation of ox-bow lakes, and equally through every human interaction they have on the premises whether with teachers or with peers. Many of the latter type of experience will be hidden from teachers’ eyes, and to a great extent immune to our manipulations,  but are no less formative. (In terms of their classroom experience, children’s maturity and well-being are fostered through habits of work, application and organisation, and through an atmosphere that insists on respectful communication. These can happen regardless of instructional methods, the choice of which should be guided by the content being covered. Attempts such as this one to raise children’s self-esteem through group-work put the self-conceptual cart before the attainment horse). There is also a case to be made for “service learning” through blocked social placement that has minimal impact on the timetable, or even better, through extra-curricular opportunities for volunteering.  And I also mean the experience of life beyond school, both physically and temporally. The end of third year cannot be seen as a deadline for achieving the kind of wisdom, common sense and “life skills” that most of us where still acquiring well into our twenties. You could argue that  very many people die at a ripe old age without achieving half  of what we expect fifteen year olds to master (“Use good communication skills to respond to criticism and conflict” for example). Some more examples are:

-express emotions in an appropriate way [who decides which ways are “appropriate??]

-help others to feel included in the group

-recognise how gender and sexuality is [sic] part of what it means to be human

-learn from their mistakes and move on

-appreciate the importance of respectful and inclusive behaviour.

-recognise their capacity to extend and receive friendship

-appreciate the importance of talking things over

-appreciate what it means to live with mental ill-health.[It amazes me that anyone, anywhere thinks that there is any classroom activity –  including listening to a guest speaker –  that could even begin to achieve this outcome]

-use coping skills for managing life’s challenges [surely a tautology?]

HH-UK-cover

 

Haidt also warns against confusing people with machines, especially computers. It is tempting to see the modern educational obsession with coding as extending into the idea that children need to be programmed with the attributes we find desirable in adults. If the device comes with the software apparently missing, then some-one must install it. If parents can’t be trusted, it must then fall to schools to do the installation. There is no button (or combination of buttons) on a child that you can press to make her act like an adult. But everything she needs to be one is already there. Adolescence is a complex, biological and social process, that is barely understood by the very young science of developmental psychology. We tinker with it at our peril and the peril of the children themselves, who are not machines, but animals who are infinitely more resilient than machines, and harder to break, but conversely more challenging to repair.

Another of the book’s warnings is about over-protection. By making “staying well” an actual learning outcome, we are encouraging children to live life inside the confines of the white-picket fence. We risk trying to make teenagers into emotional self-managers who put their own comfort and welfare ahead of any cause or any ambition.  This is seen in the annual hand-wringing fest that decries the State Examinations as damaging to the mental health of candidates. The Junior Cert, in particular, was a pressurised yet ultimately low-stakes event that did more to foster resilience and confidence than any Wellbeing syllabus yet to be devised. The stakes are higher at Leaving Cert, but – as its name implies – these young people are leaving childhood behind and setting out into an adult world that will contain challenges at least as hard and often harder than sitting an exam for which there is a well-defined curriculum and marking scheme, focused tuition for the two-year lead-up and, for most candidates, is sat at a time of very few commitments or responsibilities.  We wouldn’t put ten year olds through the process (a madness currently proposed in an education system not too far away), but switching to softer, more gameable assessments could deny our teenagers what is for most of them an admittedly very stressful yet formative experience.  Haidt writes, drawing on the work of wisdom researcher Robert Sternberg,

“Shelter your children when young, but if the sheltering goes on through the child’s teens and twenties, it may keep out wisdom and growth as well as pain.”

So I would suggest a re-balancing. When it comes to Wellbeing we need to put more emphasis on the elephant through the practices and habits of daily life in school, while  allowing students to cope with challenging situations where the rider can discover the tacit skills of elephant communication. We need to realise that interventions that exclusively target the rider (such as providing factual information about personal safety) are limited in scope and are more than catered for in the time already allowed for SPHE; there is no need for an increase. Rather, the vast bulk of our time in the class room should be focused not on things children can work out for themselves but on things for which they need schools, and for which they need teachers to teach them.

 

*When I say “wellbeing” I don’t include Physical Education, even though that subject is now included under the Wellbeing umbrella. I refer instead to the psychosocial aspects of SPHE and CSPE and all learning outcomes relating to attitudes, character, mental health and “awareness”.

Well-being isn’t just about health. It’s about everything.

well-being

Consultation closes tomorrow on Junior Cycle Wellbeing . The only way I was aware of this consultation was its appearance in my Twitter feed. The document is an interesting read and I urge to you to have a look and respond.

I’m in favour of academic learning, but the document is quick to reassure me that this doesn’t mean I can’t also be in favour of Wellbeing with a capital W. This is both a new “area of learning”, allotted a whopping 400 hours of school time (to put this in context Maths and English get 240 hours each), and a set of guidelines on how schools should be run. The introduction quotes from Katherine Weare’s 2000 book “Promoting Mental, Emotional and Social Health: A Whole School Approach”.

“It is vital that those who seek to promote high academic standards and those who see to promote mental, emotional and social health realise that they are on the same side, and that social and affective education can support academic learning, not simply take time away from it. There is overwhelming evidence that students learn more effectively, including their academic subjects , if they are happy in their work, believe in themselves, their teacher and feel school is supporting them.”

I would like to challenge the notion that we are “on the same side”. I have not read Weare’s book so cannot comment on the “overwhelming evidence”, but let’s start by conceding that it’s true, or at least that it’s not implausible. Children do learn better when they’re “happy in their work”, have self-belief and feel supported by staff and the overall school. Let’s say I accept all that is true. But it does not follow that I am thus “on the same side” as those advocating and planning to devote swathes of class contact time to mental, emotional and social health promotion. I’d say I was on the opposite side, because what there doesn’t seem to be “overwhelming evidence” for is that directly teaching and promoting mental health leads to children who are “happy in their work”. In fact, I’d say the prerequisite for having children who are happy in their work is that they have actual work to engage in and being the passive recipients of awareness-raising and promotional activities is not work.

The aims of happy, confident children who feel supported on a personal and institutional level are worthy aims of any school. How well these are met comes down largely to the personal relationship between a child and his teachers, and between the child and the overall way his school is run. The extent to which these relationships can be engineered through remote departmental policy is limited. And  calling these aims an “area of learning” and setting up a pseudo-subject, complete with learning objectives and assessment criteria, is not supporting children in their learning and will do nothing for their self-belief, confidence or happiness.

What the consultative policy document actually does is provide a charter for “progressive education”. It is incredibly far-reaching, covering topics such as discipline, assessment, pedagogical approaches, student voice, staff development, sustainable development and timetabling. It is quite clear in insisting “the Well-being indicators should inform all planning.” By gathering the progressive ends of thinking in these areas together, the Junior Cycle team are attempting to legitimise them as being beneficial to children’s health, particularly their mental health. It is hard to see how this is justified unless there are teaching methods and forms of assessment that do pose a threat to mental health. There are people who believe learning facts and taking tests damages the brain but such fears do not stand up to scrutiny.

The consultation document advocates that school should endeavour to be “a more democratic learning environment in which students have a voice” and that children be consulted when “policies are being developed, implemented ore reviewed”. It recommends that

“students and teachers engage in ongoing dialogue about learning, teaching and assessment. These conversations can have significant benefits for student wellbeing. By engaging in authentic listening to students at both whole school and classroom level, the school is recognising students as experts in their own learning and hearing what it is like to be a student in the school.” [italics mine]

It goes on “Teaching and learning that is supportive of student well-being is democratic…engages students through the use of a variety of approaches including active, co-operative and peer learning, takes account of the diverse needs and learning approaches of students.” [italics mine] This implies that if, as a teacher, you do not take account of the “diverse learning approaches of students” you are failing to protect their well-being. They will be unhappy in whatever little work they might actually do doing, feel unsupported and make begin to doubt themselves.

On assessment, there is no specific mention of AfL, but the authors seem fairly definite that formative assessment is not just a miracle when it comes to learning, it is also has hitherto unseen health benefits. The one thing assessment must avoid doing is any kind of measurement of what students have learned. And we must be careful not to test them too much: “it is important to consider the volume of assessment activities that students are faced with. This can act as a considerable source of stress, especially when assessment is almost exclusively associated with testing, marking and grading”. Never mind the considerable evidence for the benefits of frequent, low-stakes testing to learning, or the reality, as Carl Hendrick writes here, that this kind of stress is not harmful to anyone’s mental health.

Now you might think that one aspect of making pupils feel supported by their school would be a strong behaviour policy with high expectations and the reinforcement of adult authority. School principals recognise this: “The policy that school leaders tend to identify as being most important for student wellbeing is the behaviour policy”. This makes sense, as the behaviour policy goes a long way towards pupils feeling safe in school, and towards enabling a classroom atmosphere of work and concentration. How can children feel “happy in their work” if that work is being disrupted by their peers?

The document is full of impressive footnotes but the most outrageous assertion of all is supported only by the preface “Research shows”, with no citation whatsoever. “Research shows that in schools where student wellbeing is optimised, supportive rather than punitive approaches to behaviour are adopted.” Firstly, the opposition between “supportive” and “punitive” is completely false, unless they’re suggesting children be supported to behave badly. Sanctions for poor behaviour are an essential part of any workable behaviour policy, although they are of course, only a part and not the whole. To pretend otherwise is to live in a fairytale. Or be an educationalist. Even when it comes to behaviour management, adult authority is undermined as the policy checklist includes “Do students have a voice?” It says “Policy development, in support of wellbeing, should be a collaborative, inclusive and democratic process.” It goes on to say such policies “might be easier to implement”. Of course they would, if the student referendum on detention swings towards “Out”. But it won’t make the job of teachers any easier, or protect pupils at risk of bullying, or promote the right of all in the school community to a safe and dignified environment.

I have focused here more on the practical implications of the consultation document – how it aligns teaching, assessment and discipline with progressive ideology – and its lack of appreciation for the role of adult authority in making schools safe, productive places of learning. The introduction of “Wellbeing” will indeed, take time away from the classroom contact time that pupils need to develop as learners and to gain academic confidence. It will replace SPHE, CSPE and PE. The combined time allocation for these is currently c. 280 hours. Well-being will take up a mandatory 400 hours. If you are an English teacher, or a Maths teacher, think how even twenty of those 120 hours would make covering the new, longer courses a more efficient and enriching experience. If you teach a modern foreign language, ask how you feel about this non-subject being allocated exactly twice the time you have been given to open children’s minds to a new culture and to help them  acquire oral and written proficiency in its language.

There are deeper issues at play here around the adoption this represents of “therapeutic education”, that is the acceptance that there is an epidemic of mental illness, that all teenagers are vulnerable when it comes to mental health, and that it is necessary to requisition the education system to provide (often prophylactic) classroom-based psychotherapy, even if that means young people leaving school knowing less. I am not denying that there are schoolchildren, particularly at second level, who are struggling with mental health problems. How schools support liaise with CAMHS and support these students on a personal level, is a worthy subject for discussion. I support the reinstatement of guidance counselling hours. Guidance counsellors provide an essential service as informal listening within a non-clinical setting is often enough to relieve what can seem to a naïve teenager to be an unsurmountable issue, and with less access to this (combined with ever-increasing “awareness”) more and more children are joining the long queue for intervention. However, we should remember that the business of schools remains education, that the job of the teacher is to impart knowledge and that while adolescence can be fraught with anxiety and self-doubt, most children derive no benefit from “the curriculum of the self” and may even be harmed by it.

The phrase “the curriculum of the self” comes from Kathryn Ecclestone and Dennis Hayes’ excellent 2009 book “The Dangerous Rise of Therapeutic Education”. Far from developing resilience, Ecclestone and Hayes argue that classes where children focus on their own emotional well-being encourages them “to come to terms with being a feeble, vulnerable subject and then to allow the state to coach the appropriate dispositions and attitudes of the emotionally well citizen.” They propose instead a radical, humanist curriculum where pupils are encouraged to look outward to the wider world (including the world of the past) beyond their immediate experience.

It seems just another cheesy educational quote, but Sydney J Harris was correct when he said that “The purpose of education is to turn mirrors into windows”. Turning their own well-being and their own preoccupations into a quasi-subject is letting our pupils down. It invites those who are already (often painfully) self-absorbed to look into full-length, wrap-around mirrors and includes the magnifying lens of asking teenagers to assess their own well-being, “mindsets” and coping skills. The document does not put forward evidence that increasing classroom instruction on “learning about well-being” will result in better health outcomes, on any measure. Rather it is justified on the basis of “making commitment to well-being visible”. If you are a child (or the child’s parent) and the main indication that your school cares about your well-being is that it’s written on your timetable, then I’m not sure you know that they care.

Let’s embed children’s well-being and welfare at the heart of our school culture. Let’s think about how we can foster good working relationships with pupils, remembering that such relationships are enhanced when adults are not afraid to exercise authority. Let’s focus on teaching well so pupils feel a sense of achievement and control. But let’s not bow to the lifestyle-supplement Zeitgeist that puts looking into mental and physical mirrors above learning, creating and connecting. Let’s keep opening windows and inviting young people to look out at what awaits them.

 

 

The link to the consultation document is here, and it is open “until the end of June”.