Headlines: August 29th, 2001

Schools that focus too heavily on getting children through exams risk damaging their emotional health and skewing broader educational objectives in the process. This warning about ‘exam mania’ and its potential to damage children’s mental health comes in a paper published by the Institute for Public Policy Research.The paper, Learning to Trust and Trusting to Learn , points to the apparent rise in eating disorders, burn out, male disaffection and behaviour problems, even in the more academic schools, as signs that there is a growing ‘mental health deficit’ among children. The latest official study acknowledges that one in ten children aged 5-15 will experience a clinically defined mental health problem. Successful students may become success junkies, lose sight of themselves and only feel accepted with straight As, while others who don’t make the grade, or any grade, feel a failure. A secondary teacher is quoted in the paper as saying: ‘We are not educating them. We are not even teaching them. We are drilling them.’

The paper argues that mental health is a vital educational, as well as a health, issue. It goes on to identify a coherent set of principles that should consistently inform action to promote mental health across the breadth of child related public policy, including education, from birth through adolescence. It urges that these principles should be translated into practical policies for government, education authorities and schools.
Link: www.ippr.org.uk <http://www.ippr.org.u