Our Wise Up campaign calls on the Government to rebalance the education system to make the wellbeing of students as important as academic achievement.
There is a mental health crisis in our classrooms. 3 children in every classroom have a diagnosable mental disorder and 90% of school leaders have reported an increase in the last 5 years in the number of students experiencing anxiety, stress, low mood or depression.
Children and young people are facing more pressures than ever before, including exam pressure, social media and cyberbullying and pressure over body image.
Schools play a crucial role in developing the skills young people need to cope and flourish in today’s world. They are a constant in young peoples’ lives, and are a safe, consistent place for vulnerable young people.
As well as this, children with better health and wellbeing are likely to perform better academically.
But the education system is unbalanced, with an over-emphasis on exams and a lack of priority on student wellbeing.
We are delighted to be working with the National Children’s Bureau on this campaign.
Our open letter to Ofsted
Many schools are doing excellent work on wellbeing, but when Ofsted come to visit, that work isn’t well recognised. With school budgets under serious pressure, this makes it really hard for schools to make wellbeing a priority.
Ofsted have acknowledged that they focus too much on grades. Now we need a commitment that the wellbeing of children will be a top priority.
When the Ofsted inspection framework is reviewed next year, we need to see:
- An explicit reference to promoting mental health and wellbeing within the framework.
- Increased priority within grade descriptors for ‘good’ and 'outstanding' schools to encourage school leaders to prioritise this.
- Mental health and wellbeing to be made more of a priority within inspections and inspection reporting.
We are calling for these changes to be accompanied by additional funding for wellbeing initiatives.
The "perfect school"
Over 22,000 people signed our open letter to Ofsted, asking them to prioritise the wellbeing of students in their inspection framework.
On 1 November, we handed in the open letter with our Activists to Ofsted. The Activists met with the Head of Policy at Ofsted, and showed them an illustration of the "perfect school", which was inspired by suggestions of hundreds of young people, parents and teachers across the country.
Open letter to Ofsted
Dear Amanda Spielman,
There is a mental health crisis in our classrooms, with mounting evidence suggesting mental health problems in children and young people are on the rise.
As I’m sure you agree, schools have a crucial role to play in promoting positive mental health. Many schools are already doing excellent work in this area, which can have real benefits for students’ wider education. But this is not well enough reflected in the current inspection framework or in inspection reports.
This means that, when school leadership teams have to make difficult decisions about how to spend their limited budgets, it can be hard for them to make wellbeing initiatives a priority.
We very much welcome your recent announcement that the new inspection framework will no longer focus on exam results and grades. But we urge you to build on this by ensuring that wellbeing is at its heart.
Did you know?
Our research found:
- more than half of parents want more information available on how their child’s school provides wellbeing support for students.
- 73% of parents would choose a school where children are happy even if previous exam results had not been good, over a school where exam results were better.
- 90% of young people we surveyed said that they would like mental health to be more important to their school or college.
- 86% of teachers agreed that the Ofsted framework should be revised, so there is a greater focus on wellbeing and mental health, with other elements scaled back.
- 82% of teachers think the focus on exams has become disproportionate to the overall wellbeing of their students.
We are calling for a change in government policy to ensure that schools have the resources and recognition they need to prioritise wellbeing and mental health.
We want to see additional funding for wellbeing initiatives, alongside a greater emphasis on wellbeing and mental health in the Ofsted framework.
Since launching our campaign in March 2017, we have:
- Delivered an open letter with 10,000 signatures to the Prime Minister.
- Launched our Wise Up report in parliament, where more than 40 MPs and Lords turned up to show their support.
- Got our Wise Up recommendations written into the Government’s Select Committee Inquiry Report, which was investigating mental health and education.
- Influenced the government's Green Paper on children's mental health, which includes proposals on increasing mental health support in schools.
- Held a Wise Up and Doodle event co-produced with young people creating an illustration of the ‘perfect school’ inspired by hundreds of young people and members of the public.
- Handed in an open letter to Amanda Spielman, signed by over 22,000 people, asking for wellbeing to be made a priority in the Ofsted inspection framework.
- Set up a meeting with our activists and Ofsted’s Head of Policy to discuss what needs to change in schools, and how changing the Ofsted framework could help.