Increasingly schools are asked to do more to address these issues despite increasing pressures like time, budgets, and academic results.
The levels of anxiety, depression and even suicidal impulses in children are all on the rise. Support services, such as the charities Childline, Young Minds and Barnardo’s have reported concerns about the state of children’s mental health as their services face rising demands. Government funding has been pledged for greater counselling support in schools to help those children in need.
While this is good news it is also very much aimed at the treatment end of the spectrum – when mental health has already broken down and outside help is needed. There has been less focus and discussion on the prevention side of the equation. Rather than looking solely at mental illness I believe we need to look more at promoting mental wellness. In the same way we cannot encourage physical health by talking only about physical illness we cannot support mental wellness through an emphasis on mental illness. So what can we do, and how can we do it without putting extra pressure on teachers, or school finances?
Thankfully there is an answer in the form of positive education. Positive education is based on the science of positive psychology founded by Professor Martin Seligman from the University of Pennsylvania – which has become a global movement, and revolutionised the way psychology looks at happiness, wellbeing and human flourishing.
As a Positive Psychologist I have worked with schools throughout the UK, bringing the skills of positive education to the classroom. I think of positive education as where the science of psychology meets the art of teaching. At a time when teachers are under increasing pressure to support pupils well beyond academic learning, the tools and techniques of positive education are vital. Decades of research show that they have a powerful, positive impact on pupils (and on teachers). They can improve academic performance as well as wellbeing and can easily be folded into how teachers deliver their daily lessons.
On January 17th I’m holding the inaugural day of Everyday Magic – a training course for teachers that equips them with the great benefits positive education brings to their classrooms. The course is offered by St Bede Primary MAT and Teaching School Alliance and is spread over six days across two terms. They will study the scientific application of what helps children flourish and cope more easily with life’s up and downs.
This will include:
- Improving concentration and focus,
- Developing greater grit and determination
- Recovering more quickly from setbacks,
- Developing greater pro-social skills (this includes kindness and compassion towards others)
- Increasing feelings of confidence
- Dealing constructively with difficult emotions such as anger and frustration
The programme is based on Seligman’s PERMA model
I have been working on this project for more than a year, and now one of the first bespoke positive education courses in the UK is about to begin. I could not be more excited, or prouder of those schools whose staff members are taking part. They are pioneers, and their pupils will truly benefit.