ACTION POINT 6.
Schools should measure pupil wellbeing regularly.
Schools need an ethos that promotes children’s wellbeing and identifies children who are languishing; but they should also devote at least an hour a week to education in life skills. Children and
young people need to learn how to understand and manage their own emotions, understand others and care for them, manage their sexual relationships responsibly, eat and drink sensibly and avoid drugs,
understand mental disorders and what can be done about them, understand parenting, manage their responses to modern media and choose positive life goals. There are now hundreds of programs that have
been developed worldwide to address one or more of these issues. Many of these programs have been rigorously evaluated on the whole age cohort in a school and been found to produce good results, at
least in the short run. This was the finding of Durlak et al that we quoted earlier,67 and it related to impacts in the first six months after the programs ended. But, in the few cases where children
have been followed up over a longer period, the effects have often been found to fade over time and, in many cases, to disappear.68 This is not surprising given that the programs typically average 20
hours. We should also note that many quite famous programs have had at least one trial which found no effects.69
This leads to two important conclusions. First,
if children are to develop good life skills, they need more than one or two 20-hour programs: they need a whole curriculum of life skills, at least once a week throughout the school life. As
Aristotle observed, good habits are learned through interesting repetition in varying contexts. Second, this curriculum should be evidence-based and depend as little as possible on inspired
improvisation by the teacher. It is universally found that the best results follow from using detailed materials accompanied by a good manual on how to use them and some explicit training of the
teachers70 (this is not so different from what is needed for a good surgical operation.) And the best results always come from offering a positive vision rather than warnings about what not to