The National Institute for Health and Care Excellence, the body which decides which drugs the NHS should prescribe, took over new responsibilities for maintaining public health earlier this year. In September it issued guidelines to schools advising them to measure pupil happiness.
In a document it advised: “Schools should systematically measure and assess young people’s social and emotional well-being.They should use the outcomes to plan activities and evaluate their impact.”
The recommendation caused some debate. The Campaign for Real Education labeled it 'ludicrous'. In my opinion that is a somewhat simplistic knee-jerk reaction. Certain sections will always shout down ideas that do not fit into the narrow confines of a nostalgic, three-Rs-centred national curriculum.
Anything which places happiness and well-being on the educational radar cannot be a bad thing.
Schools have used emotional intelligence ‘toolkits’ for a number of years and there have been a number of reported benefits including a fall in the level of exclusions, improved attendance levels and most importantly a boost in an individual’s ability to learn, engage and achieve. However, emotional intelligence is not compulsory in schools and there is no standardised way of teaching it.
Laughology, has been running a 10 week programme with St Matthew’s Primary School, Luton to help pupils improve their SAT’s by improving their key happiness skills (confidence, the ability to achieve and recognise personal success, building and sustaining positive relationships, developing coping skills and having and giving support). The results made a compelling case for the continued development of such programmes. Happiness is a powerful tool for schools to use but measuring it is simply not enough - not least because in many cases it is a hard to quantify factor. Rather than trying to measure and create happiness, it is equally as important to promote resilience. The one fact we need to remember is that we are never going to be happy all the time. Life throws up challenges and difficulties on a daily basis and the trick is not to ignore or walk away from these but to face them head on with the right tools and attitude.