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Should school league tables be about more than results?

Checking the school league tables when your son or daughter is moving up to secondary school or swapping primary school has become an important step for many parents. While the academic results a school achieves is a factor that many consider when applying, should the league tables focus on more than just exams and grades?

At the moment school league tables have plenty of information on exam results, such as the number of key stage 2 pupils that have achieved a level 4 or above in reading, writing and maths or the number of students receiving more than 5 GCSEs graded a C or above. Through the tables parents can also see how much progress pupils have made, which can be an indicator for how well your child would develop if they attended. However, the current system has been criticised.

Sir Anthony Seldon, a university head and former head teacher of an independent school, argues that well-being and happiness should be the top priority when selecting a school. He called for well-being to be reflected in school league tables in order to make comparisons, stating that schools were not being encouraged enough to tackle “avoidable suffering”.

Seldon made the comments during World Mental Health Day adding, “As long as the only metric on which schools are being assessed is their exam performance, our schools will never have the incentive to take wellbeing as seriously as they should.”

The mental health of children and young people has been a growing concern, with recent figures showing a quarter of a million children are receiving help from the NHS Child and Adolescent Mental Health Services. Other pieces of research have shown that more young people are feeling under pressure and unhappy, when compared to previous decades.

While of course academic results are important, a parents’ main question will typically be “will my child be happy here?”. Looking at the what the school can offer on a wider basis, such as sports to take part in or music lessons, can be just as important. If you’re looking a new school for your child but want to take more than academic results into consideration, there are some steps you can take:

  • Visit the school – There’s no better way to get a feel for a school than to actually visit it. Many schools hold open days and will be more than happy to accommodate you should want to take a look around.
  • Speak to parents – If you can find parents whose children already attend the school your considering it’s a great way to understand how the school is run, how happy the children are and anything else you’re interested in.
  • Check out School Reviewer – You can have a look at reviews for schools in your area via School Reviewer. You’ll be able to see what parents think and discuss any concerns you have.

Does your child need to be ‘unplugged’?

It’s no secret that we live in a digitally and technologically dependant society, with more and more of our daily tasks such as buying a train ticket, managing our money, booking a taxi and ordering food being done at the click of a mouse or the swipe of a screen. And it’s not only grownups that are glued to technological devices, kids often ask for smartphones or tablets for birthday and Christmas gifts, resulting in the younger generation also joining the tech-fuelled community.

A survey conducted on behalf of a kids clothing retailer found that 37% of the parents surveyed said that their child spent between one to two hours a day playing with technological gadgets, with 38% of children aged two to five old children owned an android tablet, 32% an iPad and another 32% owning a mobile phone.

Edward Timpson, and education minister is urging schools to teach mindfulness techniques such as yoga and meditation, in order to give them a peaceful break from the hectic online world. Timpson suggests that this is necessary in order to enable children to enjoy ‘good mental health and emotional wellbeing’.  But do our children need to be ‘unplugged’?

The risks of too much screen time?

Website, games and streaming services all provide sources of entertainment for children, as well as keeping them connected with their friends. However, this recent statement by Timpson suggests that it could also be having a negative impact. What are the risks?

Cyberbullying

Now, bullying is no longer restricted to the refines of the playground, and it can spread into a child’s personal, virtual life through the use of social media and other forum sites. Last year, a report by ChildLine revealed that they had seen an 87% increase in counselling about online bullying over the past three years. If your child is a victim of cyberbullying, and is constantly connected, then the negative emotional impact could be accelerated due to the continuous exposure.

Poor mental health

Last year, a report from the Office of National Statistics also showed the impact that excessive use of online social media can have on children that are not necessarily victims of cyberbullying. Symptoms of poor mental health was apparent in 12% of the children that were not active on social media, but these figures rose to 27% in those that spent three hours or more a day on the websites. In the report, experts also suggested that children that spent too much time in the virtual world could risk delaying their real world social developments, potentially leading to social stress and anxiety in adult life.

Affecting education

In a 2015 study researchers at Cambridge University found that, out of the 800 14-16 year olds involved in the project, those that spent an extra hour a day interacting with a screen (compared to the other children) received GCSE results that were two grades lower overall.

Many adults are practising mindfulness techniques in order to cope with daily stresses with a rise in the sales of colouring books, an increased interest in yoga and meditation, and apps such as Headspace becoming commonly used. Do our children, as suggested by Timpson, also have a need to ‘unplug’?