Further Thoughts on Ofsted and Wellbeing

Yesterday we blogged about a recent Guardian article on happiness and wellbeing.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/education/2012/jan/16/children-wellbeing-schools-ofsted?INTCMP=SRCH

In the article, the writer Stephanie Northen expresses justifiable concerns about the prioritisation of well-being both in the life of a school and the new inspection schedule that came into being at the beginning of this month.

She explains that the Ofsted Section Five Inspection appears to have reduced the relevance of wellbeing in the inspection schedule despite the Prime Minister’s commitment to wellbeing and despite good schools constantly reiterating that wellbeing is “central to everything that happens” within a school. Furthermore, Michael Gove has stated that ‘peripherals’ such as looking at Healthy Eating or the extra-curricular provision would not be an integral part of the inspections.

This all sounds very concerning, and as one commenter on the article stated, “Happiness in schools – something the terrible duo in charge of education, Messrs Gove and Wilshaw, seem, according to some, to have consigned to the dustbin in an approach that is starting to make Gradgrind look enlightened.”

“Dissentingvoice” continues to say, “The mental health data for our current young suggests we should actually be working harder on developing young people with emotional good health. However, not it might appear, in the world of Gove and Wilshaw. They seem not to acknowledge that students who feel positive about themselves may be more likely to be creative; to become involved; to take risks and to become better problem solvers.”

Well said, that person, for it is obvious to those who have worked in schools that in order to get the best all-round outcomes for children, they have to be motivated, enthusiastic and at least partly responsible for their own learning. This is undeniably a key factor to their academic success.

The Every Child Matters (ECM) agenda and the Social Emotional Aspects of Learning (SEAL), were introduced to ensure that children and young people were given the opportunities to develop and flourish in all aspects of childhood – by being healthy, feeling safe, enjoying their achievements, making positive contributions and being economically well. All of these things were acknowledged as being vital to a child’s wellbeing, yet in a school setting, where there was an opportunity to teach and learn and develop key skills and attitudes for effective wellbeing, the emphasis was so much on standards and the academic achievements of the pupils that the rest of the ECM agenda became “periphery”; negated by a hierarchy of need that completely  ignored what Maslow and others have seen as a definitive guidance for the needs for living healthily and happily.

Ask children and young people, and their parents and carers, what they want from school and life, and you get a very clear and precise adherence to a wellbeing agenda that includes all the very things outlined in this Every Child Matters agenda.

This has not changed. If there is one good thing to come from this New Labour policy, it has made people aware of the entitlement for young people to nurture and to develop these other aspects of wellbeing. We should not stand by and allow them to disappear in front of our very eyes.

In defence, and I can hardly believe I am saying this, of Ofsted, there is a key statement that we should ensure all inspectors remember.

In reporting, inspectors must consider the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of pupils at the school”

For those who are interested, please look at page 23 of the pdf download from the Ofsted document “Subsidiary Guidance” on the Ofsted website so that you can see the expectations in this key area.

http://www.ofsted.gov.uk/resources/subsidiary-guidance-supporting-inspection-of-maintained-schools-and-academies-january-2012

Here you can see that schools must show that they are working with pupils to ensure they develop

“a sense of fascination and enjoyment in learning about themselves, others and the world around them”. Is this not an indication of the need to develop a child’s personal intelligence, spiritual intelligence and empathy (social intelligence)– all significant parts of wellbeing?

Another example – schools must look to the moral development of a child by guiding them in their ability to “recognise the difference between right and wrong and their readiness to apply this to their own lives”.

Quite how this can be done without a school being explicitly conscious of the need to develop a child’s wellbeing is incomprehensible. Furthermore, in order to ensure that every child has the opportunity to develop their moral framework and develop a shared response to human values, then surely curriculum time is also needed  – perhaps in the form of  a PSHE lesson, by way of example? In such a way, a school can be very clear to any inspectors as to how these issues are being addressed, particularly if they have the foresight to track pupil wellbeing in conjunction with other more well-known tracking systems such as RaiseonLine.

Is it not up to teachers and senior managers in schools to highlight such dramatically important aspects of learning when the inspectors arrive on our doorsteps? Is it not up to inspectors to be clear that this is what they are looking for? Is it not up to those of us outside schools and interested in the wellbeing of children and young people to try and be a little positive here and show the policy makers that they need to include these criteria and that evidence is needed?

The point is that wellbeing is there in the inspection schedule, and what all enlightened educators must do is ensure that it is not undermined and diminished through a Govist tendency to look at standards above and beyond all else.

So whilst there is not a specific category of inspection on wellbeing, it is implicit throughout the inspection, and this clear statement about the intrinsic nature of a child’s “spiritual, moral, social and cultural” development that has to be evidenced in all four aspects of the inspection criteria.

For example, in order to receive an “outstanding” grade in the quality of teaching, schools must show  that, “Teaching promotes pupils’ high level of resilience, confidence and independence when they tackle challenging activities”.

How is resilience taught? How can we develop personal confidence in a child if we are not considering their emotional, physical, spiritual and personal wellbeing as well as the development of their intellect?

Looking at another area of the inspection schedule – behaviour, the evaluation schedule states that in order for a school to receive an “outstanding” grade, they must evidence that “pupils make an exceptional contribution a safe, positive learning environment. They must make every effort to ensure that others learn and thrive in an atmosphere of respect and dignity”.

How can this be done if there is not an ethos of wellbeing and support that is implicit throughout the school, for every child?

In conclusion, whilst we agree with many of the comments that Stephanie Nothen has made in this article, we must encourage schools and inspectors to see that there are key elements of wellbeing within the new framework and if necessary we must guide them to these evidence statements, making them stark, real and in need of action.

Let us not also forget that there is a duty of care on all schools from the most recent education act that “promotes the wellbeing of pupils”.

Promotes – not pays lip service, “promotes”.

In order to have this overturned, Mr. Gove would have to put a new education act through parliament and who could possibly argue against the need for this and the entitlement for young people that everyone involved in their lives, including themselves is both mindful and proactive about their personal wellbeing, and indeed collective responsibility.

Wellbeing is vital. Wellbeing deserves to be highlighted and prioritised in the lives of our children and young people.

It is there in the inspection framework. We just need to collectively ensure that it is commented upon.

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About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at https://3diassociates.wordpress.com/ or see our website at www.3diassociates.com.
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