Every school should have a therapist, says happiness expert

Lord Layard also wants government to assess how much value schools add to pupils’ happiness

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Every school should have an on-site therapist, according to one of the country’s leading economists and wellbeing experts.

Lord Layard, director of the wellbeing programme at the London School of Economics’ Centre for Economic Performance, has also called for all schools to employ a senior teacher in charge of mental health.

He wants child and adolescent mental health services (Camhs) to provide therapeutic services in schools. “Extra money for child mental health should be devoted to building a school-based wing of Camhs,” he said.

Lord Layard said this should include trained therapists in schools. “I would use the word ‘therapist’, rather than ‘counsellor’,” he said.

Building happiness

He suggested that the government should assess how much value schools add to pupils’ happiness. “If the only thing measured is exams, we will never get anything else given equal importance to that,” he told a conference on wellbeing and mental health in education, organised by the International Positive Education Network.

“Happiness and wellbeing should be something that the school uses, to see how well it’s doing. How well does a school do in changing the happiness of its children?

“Eventually…every school will have a senior teacher in charge of mental health.”

Teachers can tackle anxiety

Speaking at the same conference on Friday, Mario Piacentini, of the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), spoke about the organisation’s new ranking of developed countries by pupils’ levels of happiness.  

“The number-one driver of dissatisfaction is anxiety,” Dr Piacentini said. “More than one in two students in the OECD worries excessively about the difficulty of exams. They get very tense, even if they perceive they’re well-prepared for the exam.”

But, he added, teachers are able to allay this anxiety to some degree. “Whenever students feel support from their teachers – if the teacher adapts the lesson for the class’s skills and knowledge – there is a reduction in anxiety.

“But, if there are problems of communication with teachers, the level of anxiety jumps up.”

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