The conference was an inspiring opportunity to come together with so many people who share our belief: that a positive education should equip young people with the knowledge and life skills to flourish. As Sir Anthony Seldon says, we all have an immense power to prepare our young people for a successful and happy life.
I’m pleased to be able to share with you five key things from the conference that particularly resonated with me:
1. Working on Character improves students results.
In researching for her new book*, Nicky Morgan MP visited a number of schools who had won Department for Education Character Awards. Every single Headteacher said that the work they did on Character improved the results of their students.
(*Taught Not Caught: Educating for 21st Century Character)
2. Schools should be measuring wellbeing alongside exam results.
We saw compelling evidence that students with higher levels of wellbeing do better in exams and that student wellbeing is predictive of later earnings. There is not a trade-off between wellbeing and attainment. Former Cabinet Secretary, Lord Gus O’Donnell questioned why we unfalteringly focus on exam results as a measure of success and is asking educators for ideas to develop unbiased methods of measuring wellbeing. Many of our partner schools use our Talent Toolbox. You can also contribute your ideas by tweeting @Gus_ODonnell.
3. Focusing on wellbeing shouldn’t be another ‘To Do’ for teachers.
Schools shouldn’t turn social and emotional learning (SEL) into another ‘to do’; a focus on SEL should become embedded within the culture of a school. Professor Katherine Weare was firm in her belief that it is the ethos of a school which is fundamental to its success, and the rules of a school should be balanced with a focus on its values, morals and beliefs.
4. Preventing mental health issues can be led from within a school.
Three children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental health issue*. Whilst mental health professionals are vital in working with young people already experiencing mental health issues, schools have a key role in prevention. Boosting confidence and self-esteem early on prevents young people from developing mental health issues later in life and equips them with a balanced outlook, preparing them for future challenges. The Anna Freud Centre has some useful resources for schools and teachers to address mental health.
*(Young Minds, 2016)
5. Take a moment to be mindful.
“It should be compulsory that mindfulness is taught in schools. It doesn’t take a genius to figure out that if they were developing social and emotional skills besides reading, writing and whatever that last one is (I didn’t flourish in school) then there might be drop in crime, self-harming, drug abuse, mental illness and even suicide.” – Ruby Wax
It was a privilege to hear Ruby Wax speak about her book ‘Frazzled’ and share with us how training her brain to be mindful had helped her to cope with her own mental health issues. We use mindfulness in the Yes Futures programmes and strongly believe teaching young people to be mindful is critical in developing positive mental health and preparing them for a happy and successful life.
To find out more about how Yes Futures can help you to develop your students’ character and wellbeing, please contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org.