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