Student wellbeing: Teachers urged to sign open letter to PM

Written by: Pete Henshaw | Published:
Image: Adobe Stock

Teachers, parents and students are being asked to sign an open letter to prime minister Theresa May urging her to “rebalance” the education system and prioritise wellbeing in schools.

It comes after new research revealed that teachers would welcome a duty for schools to promote wellbeing.

The same survey has found that a majority of parents prioritise wellbeing over exam results when choosing a school for their children.

The findings have been published to mark the Wise Up campaign that has been launched by mental health charity YoungMinds alongside the National Children’s Bureau.

The campaign is calling for the government to rebalance the education system by:

  • Changing the law to make wellbeing a fundamental priority for schools.
  • Ensuring that Ofsted inspections properly recognise what schools do to promote wellbeing.
  • Ensuring all teachers are trained in mental health awareness.
  • Allocating more designated funding to schools for their wellbeing provision.
  • Exploring how the wellbeing of young people can be more effectively monitored.

The survey of more than 800 UK teachers and more than 1,000 parents found that 73 per cent of parents would choose a school where children are happy even if previous exam results have not been good. And 92 per cent of parents think that schools have a duty to support the wellbeing and mental health of students.

Meanwhile, 91 per cent of teachers would welcome greater recognition of the work they do to support wellbeing, while 71 per cent say that they would welcome a duty on schools to promote wellbeing.

The open letter states: “While it is not the role of schools to replace the specialist support that mental health services provide, they can and should play a crucial role in developing the skills young people need to cope and flourish in today’s world.

“But at the moment the education system is fundamentally unbalanced, with an over-emphasis on exams and too little focus on student wellbeing.”

Sarah Brennan, chief executive of YoungMinds, said: “There is a mental health crisis in our classrooms. Children and young people today face a huge range of pressures, from exam stress to cyber-bullying to finding a job when they finish education, and all the evidence suggests that the situation is getting worse.

“Schools are critical in helping prevent mental health problems escalating, in building wellbeing and resilience and helping young people learn the skills they need to cope in today’s world.

“Many schools are already doing excellent work, but too often they are hampered by competing pressures and a lack of resources.

“If the government is serious about tackling the crisis, it must rebalance the whole education system.”

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