The Big Question: Should schools be assessed on children’s wellbeing?

Each week, we’ll speak to the people who count, people like you, and post their opinions on the big issues in the education world.  Read it and comment to make it a lively and insightful debate

This week’s question: Should school’s ability to boost children’s wellbeing be officially assessed?


Schools will be asked to measure children’s well-being and results will be analysed by Ofsted, suggests a new government consultation document .  All schools have a duty to promote children’s well-being under the Education and Inspections Act 2006.

Standardised indicators will measure parents and pupils’ response through surveys in a number of areas including how safe they feel at school, and whether the school promotes healthy eating.  In addition, statistics on school attendance and take-up of school lunches will also be analysed during Ofsted inspections.  Many schools already carry out their own surveys and collect figures on school attendance, but this will be standardised.

Inspectors will also take into account all the other evidence the school provides.

Additionally, indicators will include the level of persistent truancy, percentage of pupils who do at least two hours a week of sport, exclusion rates, and numbers going onto further education following their sixteenth year.

The consultation states that parents have the biggest influence on their children’s well-being. So there is no intention to hold schools to account for outcomes over which they have little influence, such as child obesity and teenage pregnancy rates.

Well-being results may be included in the school’s inspection report and form local and national benchmarks.

Here are some thoughts from the school community:

The government seems to be about to unleash another bureaucratic tangle by trying to measure something that cannot be measured  How important is the number of vegetable portions eaten by Year 9 students each day to the importance of healthy eating?  When schools and Local Authorities are still struggling with centralised contracts for food providers is the Government going to ‘name and shame’ schools with low school meal take-up?  How will this fit with teaching healthy cooking, healthy packed meals and balanced diets?

Many schools already collect their own data on measures that affect their pupils, for example bullying, enjoyment of learning and feelings of safet. Yet these surveys are, on the whole, subjective.  The Government aims to standardise the collection of this data across all maintained schools but there is no mention of how valid or reliable the answers to these questions may be.  Schools will also be in a quandary as to how to improve their standings.  If perceptions of student safety are listed in league tables, as will inevitably happen once the data is in the public domain, how will schools be able to defend their incident free record when it is perceptions being recorded rather than actual occurrences?

I believe it is right for a school to be concerned about pupils’ well being;  happy, safe children learn better after all.  What benefit will be gained from standardising this data collection and then publishing it I do not understand.  As to how this could be included as part of a light touch Ofsted inspection only a pathological bean counter would be able to explain.”

Neil Walker, subject leader psychology, independent girls’ school

“I’m a bit wary of the purpose of all of this data collection.  How can they be sure of interpreting results of surveys correctly?  The meaning of an answer given by a survey respondent could be very different to the categories assigned for answers.  What other uses will they find for the data? Will there be school wellbeing league tables to add to our woes?”

Laki Singh, secondary school teacher

“It is HOW the data is used that people should be wary of. Will the results show a direct correlation with factors such as social-economic background? Probably, yes. So then what needs to happen to address that?

Another issue could be that families who might be reluctant to be tainted as not providing the correct environment for their child’s well-being are hardly going to be forthcoming with any information in this area. 

Schools can only know so much about a family but I suppose if you added up all the informal evidence from us + social services + NHS + the family themselves then I guess you would have a fairly in-depth analysis.”


Philip Johnson, primary school teacher


Should school’s ability to boost children’s wellbeing be officially assessed? Share your views below.