'It is time we put pupil and teacher wellbeing back at the heart of curriculum'

30th January 2018 at 17:13
We would do well to revisit policies of the past – including Every Child Matters – if we are to change the culture of our schools

In 2003, at least partly in response to the death of Victoria Climbie, we had one of the most important education policy initiatives from any government ever. Every Child Matters did what it said on the label – and aimed to do more.

Its laudable aims were that every child, whatever their background or circumstance, would have the support they needed to:

  • stay safe
  • be healthy
  • enjoy and achieve
  • make a positive contribution
  • achieve economic wellbeing

In a week where data shows rising knife crime and rising violence in schools, the question needs to be asked: what has happened in the last 15 years?

Gove-shaped shift

Every Child Matters illustrated a commitment from the powers-that-be to the strongly-evidenced correlation between pupil wellbeing and their academic achievement. In part, this position also lead to PSHE being a statutory element of the National Curriculum in 2008.

For those of us teaching at the time, working with disadvantaged pupils, there was a genuine belief that their complex needs would at last be addressed and supported.

Sadly our optimism proved to be just that.

Within a couple of years of promoting PSHE a vital element in the curriculum, and working to put the ECM agenda at the heart of school life, there came a change of government and of course a Michael Gove-shaped shift in education policy.

Every Child Matters sidelined

The coalition’s approach drove a change in culture in schools – test, test, test some more – that in a few short years saw PSHE pushed to the sidelines and Ofsted declaring the subject "requires improvement", with more than 40 per cent of schools providing inadequate provision. ECM became a dim and distant memory: a name on a box of files somewhere at the back of a store-cupboard. 

And now in 2018 sadly we are reaping the rewards for the shift in policy.

Is it any wonder that one in 10 pupils now have a diagnosable mental health problem? Goodness knows how many teachers have as well, with permanent exclusions are rocketing and teachers fleeing the profession in their thousands. 

Why is there no national outcry?

We need a fundamental change in the curriculum that once again puts wellbeing and PSHE at the heart of it. 

It is time for reform now. Not because I or countless other educationalists say so, but because too many of our pupils are suffering in the regime we offer them presently.

Colin Harris led a school in a deprived area of Portsmouth for more than two decades. His last two Ofsted reports were "outstanding" across all categories

To read more of Colin's articles, visit his back catalogue

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