08 SES 02 A, Education and Health: Meeting Place - Schools
Parallel Paper Session
The recognition by the World Health Organisation (WHO) of the reciprocal relationship between children’s health and education (WHO 1977) has generated interest across Europe and beyond in the ‘Health Promoting School’. Simultaneously, concerns have mounted about the wellbeing of children in developed countries, and particularly the UK (UNICEF 2007). In Scotland recent legislation has enshrined in law the duty of all local authorities to ensure that schools are health promoting (Schools (Health Promotion and Nutrition) (Scotland) Act 2007). The policy surround, published in the national Curriculum for Excellence (Scottish Executive 2004), presents wellbeing and learning as inextricably linked. ‘Health and wellbeing’ (grammatically singular) is now seen as the responsibility of all teachers, and the demand for ‘health and wellbeing across learning’ dictates that it should be embedded across the curriculum. In the words of the Scottish Health Promoting Schools Unit (2004), ‘learning and health go hand in hand’.
Despite policy enthusiasm, the term wellbeing remains ill-defined and open to multiple interpretations (Watson et al 2012). Hence the relationship between learning and wellbeing can be variously conceptualised. In some contexts wellbeing is seen as a prerequisite for effective learning (Weare 2004), and promotion of wellbeing is linked to notions of emotional literacy, resilience, and self-esteem, some of which, it is believed, are skills or competences which can be taught. This view privileges individualised ideas of wellbeing as self-management, associated with ‘well-feeling’ (Gasper 2007), and can be shown to support an instrumental view of education, in which social justice is delivered by providing access to the labour market (Coppock 2010). By contrast, the capability approach sees wellbeing as flourishing, or ‘well-living’ which some authors suggest is fostered by an enriching learning experience and opportunities to live a life of value (e.g. Nussbaum 2006, Walker 2005). This view sees wellbeing of individuals as reciprocally dependent upon the community in which they live, and values an intrinsic purpose to education, linked to a notion of social justice as the freedom to choose a life of value (Sen 2009).
Scotland has a longstanding tradition of supporting the liberal view of education as a personal and social ‘good’, yet is simultaneously influenced by the global drive towards education as a marketable commodity in a knowledge based economy. Hence it is particularly interesting to explore how the relationship between wellbeing and learning are conceptualised here.
This paper reports on an ongoing research study which asks:
- Which discourses are used to frame the relationship between health and well-being and learning in the key legislative and policy texts relating to Health Promoting Schools and the Curriculum for Excellence in Scotland?
- Which discourses are used by education professionals (including Learning and Teaching Scotland policy advisers, local authority advisers and school staff) to conceptualise the relationship between learning and health and well-being?
- How do the different discourses interact?
The paper raises some key issues about the function of the state in moulding the emotional lives of children, and the place of childhood wellbeing in the broader political and economic agenda that engulfs education.
COPPOCK, V., 2010. Cause for hope or despair? Limits to theory and policy in relation to contemporary development s in promoting health and well-being in schools in the UK and implications for children's rights. Advances in School Mental Health Promotion, 3(1), pp. 52-62. GASPER, D., 2004. Human well-being. Concepts and conceptualisations. Working paper series No388. The Hague: Institue of Social Studies. NUSSBAUM, M., 2006. Education and Democratic Citizenship: Capabilities and quality education. Journal of Human Development, 7(3), pp. 386-395. SCOTTISH EXECUTIVE., 2004. A Curriculum for Excellence; the curriculum review group. Edinburgh: Scottish Executive. SCOTTISH HEALTH PROMOTING SCHOOLS UNIT., 2004. Being Well - Doing Well: A framework for health promoting Schools in Scotland. Edinburgh: Learning and Teaching Scotland. SEN, A., 2009. The Idea of Justice. London: Penguin. UNICEF., 2007. Child poverty in perspective: An overview of child wellbeing in rich countries. Innocenti report card 7. Florence: UNICEF Innocenti Research Centre. WALKER, M., 2005. Amartya Sen's Capability Approach and Education. Educational Action Research, 13(1), pp. 103-110. WATSON, D., EMERY, C. and BAYLISS, P., 2012. Children's social and emotional wellbeing in schools: A critical perspective. Bristol: The Policy Press. WEARE, K., 2004. Developing the Emotionally Literate School. London: Sage. WORLD HEALTH ORGANISATION, 1977. Promoting Health through Schools. Report of a WHO expert committee on comprehensive school health education and promotion. Geneva: World Health Organisation.
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