Monday, 16 March 2009

Scots Psychologist: Government policy means schools will supplant role of family

At about ten to eight on this morning’s Today programme, there was an item which at first seemed to be about what was to me a rather abstract aspect of modern education. One of the things it particularly focused on was so-called SEAL (Social and Emotional Aspects of Learning) programmes, which I admit to knowing nothing about, and until this point, caring even less.

The two people being interviewed by James Naughtie were Carol Craig, the chief executive of the Centre for Confidence and Wellbeing who made the claim, and Ian Morris, head of philosophy and well-being at Wellington College. Craig argued that SEAL programmes would present real problems, whilst Morris was rather in favour.

If you follow this link, you can listen to the interview. Then move the slider to about 5' 30" in and you’ll get this revealing comment from Carol Craig, followed by Naughtie’s question to Ian Morris and his answer, which should have us all sitting up and taking notice:

CC: You see the SEAL thing isn’t really necessarily about self-esteem, although there is an ‘all about me’ strand to SEAL, which I think is one of the worrying things, because that is exactly the kind of thing that breeds far too much of a ‘self’ focus. But the point is we have to decide as a society do we think that schools should really about — be about emotional issues and well-being. This is what the government wants it to become. It’s almost like supplanting the role of the family. There’s a big, big change afoot that I think people are not aware of, that the Department of Education and Skills is now called the Department for Children, Schools and Family and its beginning to supplant the family as the provider of socialization and well-being, and I think this is a very worrying development that I think schools should be resisting. They shouldn’t be accepting this role, its not one that they will be able to fulfil.

JN: Are you going to resist it, Ian Morris?

IM: Absolutely not, I think it’s a great move, I think it is very, very important and as long as we’ve got a very clear definition of what well-being is, I think schools are very much the right place to address well-being and I think it should be the primary focus of all educational establishments to promote well-being.

You can read more about the Centre for Confidence and Wellbeing here, and download their longer critique of SEAL here (112 pages!). You can read about Wellington College's 'happiness lessons' here.

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1 comment:

  1. Being an Old Wellingtonian myself, this caught my attention. It's not exactly a typical school, so that may help contextualise Ian Morris' comments: it is what most people would call a posh boarding school. A boarding school inevitably takes on some roles of the family, especially when the parents are rich enough (and therefore probably rather busy with work) to send their kids to Wellington, though of course this does not apply to all parents, my own included. However, if this approach is becoming more mainstream that would be a grave concern. Wellington responding to a specific problem they face with their particular clientèle should not normalise this approach across the country, otherwise it will just add to the growing nanny state.