Children's wellbeing neglected as schools 'focus on academics'

School children are having their health and happiness neglected because they focus purely on academic achievement, experts have warned. A report published in the BMJ warned focusing solely on achievement could push pupils towards "risky" behaviour.

Live updates

'We need to nail down rigorous academic standards'

The UK needs to "nail down rigorous academic standards" in its education system, according to a leading columnist.

Angela Epstein dismissed calls for more to be done to protect children's wellbeing as schools took a tougher academic focus.

She said: "We have poor standards of numeracy and literacy in this country. Children learn by being amongst their peers and by children being children."

'Astonishing' BMJ should criticise education policy

It is "astonishing" the BMJ should criticise the Government for focusing so heavily on academic achievement and not a policy the Department of Education "will ever apologise for," a spokesman said.

Getting a good education is the surest way out of poverty - and poverty is one of the greatest causes of ill-health.

It is frankly astonishing that the BMJ should criticise this Government for 'encouraging schools to maximise students' academic attainment'.

That is not something which we will ever apologise for.

– A Department for Education spokesman

Advertisement

Narrow academic focus leads pupils to 'risk behaviours'

Schools which focus solely on achieving academically can push pupils into "anti-school peer groups" and towards "risk behaviours", like smoking, illegal drugs and violence, according to experts

Writing for a leading medical journal, a group of academics lead by Professor Chris Bonell said:

This is associated with many students, especially those from disadvantaged backgrounds, disengaging from school and instead investing in 'anti-school' peer groups and risk behaviours, such as smoking, taking drugs, and violence.

Furthermore, research suggests that 'teaching to the test', which commonly occurs in school systems with a narrow focus on attainment, can harm students' mental health.

– Academics led by Professor Chris Bonell

Focusing on academics 'detrimental to child's wellbeing'

Children's health and wellbeing is being neglected because schools are focusing solely on academic achievement, researchers have warned.

Children need time to play, experts said. Credit: PA

Academics warned making children focus solely on grades and tests could push some pupils towards "risky" behaviour, like smoking, as they become bored and disillusioned with their education.

Writing in a leading medical journal, academics led by Professor Chris Bonell from the Institute of Education, argue that students who are in decent health achieve better results in the classroom.

In their editorial on bmj.com, the academics said research had shown school schemes aimed at improving pupils' health also help their academic attainment.

Back to top