Wellbeing With a market tuned to persuading us that we need all kinds of luxuries
and people turning to possessions rather than relationships, what might schools do to address these issues?
What can schools do? Schools cannot address on their own the worrying picture portrayed by these reports. However, they are in a position to help pupils be more aware of the pressures that are placed upon themselves and their parents by consumerism. The following are four approaches that schools might take. 1. Understanding wellbeing – The children who took part in the
UNICEF research defined a “good day” as being time with those they love, taking part in creative and sporting activities, being outdoors and having fun. It might be beneficial for schools to find out what constitutes a good day for their children and staff and how a bad day might be turned around. Children might be engaged themselves in the research and develop their own understanding of wellbeing and what makes them happy. This conversation can extend beyond the classroom. The wellbeing
of staff, governors, teachers and parents is fundamental to establishing the wellbeing of pupils. It is worth setting time aside to consider ways in which working practices might be improved. 2. Tackling advertising – Issues linked to advertising and the role that
marketing and promotion has upon pupils should be a fundamental part of young people’s education. It may not prevent them from buying the goods but at least they can be more aware of the issues and perhaps be more selective consumers. It is not always built in to the primary curriculum, however, there are arguments for suggesting it should be.
“With a market tuned to persuading us that we need all kinds of luxuries and
people turning to possessions rather than relationships, what might schools do to address these issues?”
Useful free materials for primary age-children are available at Media Smart (www.mediasmart.org.uk
), a media literacy programme for six to 11-year-olds. Any media education should aim to enable children to make informed
decisions. It will not eradicate the influence of advertising and media from their lives but at least pupils should be able to identify the ways in which it is designed to grab their attention and use persuasive language and images to direct their choices. 3. Talking about values –We often assume that children absorb values
and that there is no need to teach them. However, some schools have chosen to adopt a model of values education which makes them more explicit. A monthly value might be adopted such as: n Care and compassion. n Doing your best. n Freedom. n Honesty and trustworthiness. n Integrity. n Respect. The value is explored in assemblies and in class and becomes part of the
shared language for the school over the month. For example, exploring the value of “unity” might include looking more closely at how the class and the school works together, what happens when people fall out, and why disunity arises. 4. Involving the wider family –With a growing population of elderly
people and a generation who perhaps feel increasingly estranged from the economic activity of their parents, there is potential for schools and communities to bring these groups together in a positive way. Grandparents are an under-used resource. They can act as mediators in
“family group conferencing” where families are experiencing challenging circumstances. They can provide help in and around the classroom and may have time to support grandchildren with homework and extra- curricular activities when parents are too busy. Grandparents often have more time available and can enjoy the sense of purpose their involvement brings. However, it is also important that
Thin blue line: Police officers guard a shopping street in Clapham, south London, during the riots this summer
they are supported, especially where they take an increasing role in the care of grandchildren. Think Intergenerational suggests that there are four categories of
programmes that can help bring younger and older people together: n Models which involve older people providing support, advice and time to younger people and their families.
n Programmes that involve children and young people in supporting, engaging and caring for older members of the community.
n Models that bring older and young people together to form partnerships working towards a common objective.
n Models aimed at building mutual interaction often through the creation of shared space.
To conclude “Consumer goods and particularly brands are often used to cover up feelings of inadequacy such as poverty, unemployment or family problems.” The UNICEF report suggests that this is a tendency much more evident
among poor children in the UK than in Spain and Sweden. The coalition government has emphasised the importance of using comparative international studies to benchmark the achievement of pupils in our schools. They acknowledge that other countries have something to teach us about what works in education. Let us hope that this commitment to looking internationally extends to wellbeing too.
References n Think Intergenerational: Connecting generations to support communities, by 4Children and supported by the Calouste Bulbenkian Foundation: www.4children.org.uk/uploads/
n The Impact of the Commercial World on Children’s Wellbeing: Report of an Independent Assessment, for the DCSF and the DCMS (2009).
n A Good Childhood: Searching for Values in a Competitive Age from the Children’s Society (2009).
n The Bailey Review on the Sexualisation and Commercialisation of Children – DfE (2011) www.education.gov.uk/childrenand
n More information about values-based education can be found at www.values-education.com
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