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Sir Anthony Seldon Calls For 'Wellbeing League Table' in Schools To Mimic Exam League Table

'Schools that prioritise wellbeing, perform better than exam factories.'

10/10/2016 14:07 | Updated 11 October 2016

There should be a “wellbeing league table” for schools, so parents can choose one that’s best suited to their child, a leading headteacher has urged.

Sir Anthony Seldon, who was a headteacher for 20 years, said failure to create the table would result in “avoidable suffering in young people.”

Seldon urged the Government to take wellbeing seriously at the Tatler Schools Live conference on Monday 10 October 2016. 

“The evidence is totally clear that wellbeing interventions enhance wellbeing and allow students and young people to cope best with problems,” he said during his speech.

“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.” 

Roberto Ricciuti via Getty Images

Sir Seldon is the vice chancellor of the University of Buckingham and is co-founder of Action for Happiness, an organisation that works to boost wellbeing.

He said he is determined to improve the mental health of young people in education and suggested there may be a reason why a “wellbeing league table” does not yet exist:

“Could it be because the Government fears that wellbeing league tables will blast a hole in their beloved exam league tables?” he asked

“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.

“This builds on the great work we know many schools are already doing through their pastoral systems to support the wellbeing of their pupils.”

In October 2016, it was revealed nearly a quarter of a million children and young people in England are receiving mental health care.

The Guardian released figures showing 235,189 people aged 18 and under get specialist care. Among this number, 11,849 were boys and girls aged five and under, and 53,659 were aged between six and 10.

At the time, Sarah Brennan, chief executive of children’s mental health charity YoungMinds told The Huffington Post UK: “It’s staggering that so many children and young people are in need of specialist mental health care. 

“These figures should act as a wake-up call. As a society, we need to do far more to prevent mental health problems from developing in the first place.”

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