Intended for healthcare professionals


Why schools should promote students’ health and wellbeing

BMJ 2014; 348 doi: (Published 13 May 2014) Cite this as: BMJ 2014;348:g3078
  1. Chris Bonell, professor of sociology and social policy1,
  2. Neil Humphrey, research co-ordinator2,
  3. Adam Fletcher, senior lecturer in social science and health3,
  4. Laurence Moore, director4,
  5. Rob Anderson, associate professor of health economics and evaluation5,
  6. Rona Campbell, professor of public health research6
  1. 1Institute of Education, University of London, London WC1H 0AL, UK
  2. 2Manchester Institute of Education, University of Manchester, Manchester, UK
  3. 3DECIPHer, Cardiff University School of Social Sciences, Cardiff, UK
  4. 4Medical Research Council/Chief Scientist Office Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, University of Glasgow, Glasgow, UK
  5. 5University of Exeter Medical School, Exeter, UK
  6. 6School for Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol, Bristol, UK
  1. c.bonell{at}

Education policy shouldn’t focus solely on academic attainment

Education policy in England increasingly encourages schools to maximise students’ academic attainment and ignore their broader wellbeing, personal development, and health.1 Schools are now monitored on attainment in a narrow range of academic subjects. Participation in the National Healthy Schools Programme no longer benefits from governmental targets or funding. Ofsted reports no longer focus specifically on how well schools promote students’ health or personal development.2 Personal, social, and health education (PSHE) remains a non-statutory subject, and schools spend less and less time teaching it because of pressure to focus on academic subjects.3 The government recently proposed making the early years foundation stage profile—which offers a holistic view of the child including his or her personal, social, and emotional development—non-statutory. At the same time, it wants to introduce mandatory academic tests in the first year of primary school.4

Two ideas apparently underpin these developments. Firstly, that promoting attainment, on the one hand, and health and …

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