Childhood wellbeing: what role for education?

Jennifer Spratt

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

35 Citations (Scopus)
63 Downloads (Pure)


The word wellbeing is ubiquitous in political discourse, and concerns about childhood wellbeing are particularly rife. This paper identifies, in the context of Scottish policy, how different professional discourses of wellbeing have migrated into education policy and it examines how this relates to learning. Taking a view of policy enactment as recontextualisation (Bernstein, 2000), the paper also explores how teachers and policy actors understand their role in supporting wellbeing.
The paper shows how Scottish policy portrays wellbeing as personal skills of self management, (discourses of health promotion, and of social and emotional literacy) fostered through a caring environment. Health and wellbeing is represented as a prerequisite for learning, rather than an outcome of education. The contribution of teaching and learning to childhood wellbeing is over-shadowed.
Whilst some interviewees repeated or reinforced the main messages of policy, others took a more nuanced view, identifying how a high quality learning experience could enhance the lives of children in the present and the future. Moreover, teacher interviews showed how good relationships were not simply a foundation for learning; they were also a product of the shared pedagogical endeavour.
The paper concludes by suggesting that the relationship between learning and wellbeing can be considered at different levels. At a basic level psychological and physical wellbeing enhances opportunities to engage in education, but at a more complex level, the choices that teachers make about content and pedagogy can create opportunities for young people to lead lives they have reason to value.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)223-239
Number of pages17
JournalBritish Educational Research Journal
Issue number2
Early online date2 Nov 2015
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2016

Bibliographical note

I would like to thank Professors Martyn Rouse and Lani Florian for their support and advice during this project.


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