Last week I came across an interesting article on The Conversation. It was entitled, Wellbeing programmes in schools might be doing children more harm than good by Professor Kathryn Ecclestone from Sheffield University.

It’s a counterintuitive statement isn’t it? How could wellbeing programmes do our students harm? Certainly in Australia we’re seeing an increase in the amount of schools actively addressing wellbeing, at the same time as the emergence of the Positive Education Schools Association (PESA).

Many of you will have attended Generation Next seminars and heard of specific programmes that you have then implemented in your own schools, so I assume you look suspiciously upon any article that suggests that these programmes might not actually be doing what it says on the tin.

Specifically, with regard to claims made in support of intervention programmes (although she doesn’t identify which ones) Professor Ecclestone says:

“Such claims often come from those with vested interests in a lucrative market of expensive, externally delivered programmes for pupils and students, training courses for teachers and classroom assistants, and endless “how-to” guides for teachers and parents.”

She goes onto to say that “There is no evidence that interventions produce any real short-term, let alone long-term, benefit in either impact or transferability.”

Professor Ecclestone will be publishing research, that she says, has found some of these interventions “actually have negative effects.”

So what does this mean for us? Well I for one will be keen to read Professor Ecclestone’s findings, but I will be doing so with a critical eye.

I have an inkling that some of the programmes she refers to might not be as effective as their marketing suggests, but I also think that – as Associate Professor Sue Roffey* suggests in the comments section of the article – that much of the effectiveness of these programmes or interventions will come down to how they are implemented and Roffey agrees that, “Whole school approaches are much more effective than one off programmes delivered by outsiders or poorly trained [with regards to the intervention] teachers.”

Just as with educational interventions, I think that if you believe that a programme is worth running with your students, it’s also worth taking the time to critically evaluate all the literature available pertaining to it and its basis for inclusion in your school community.

*Disclosure: Sue Roffey is the Director of Wellbeing Australia of which I am on the NSW advisory board.
Author: Dan Haesler is a teacher, consultant and speaker at the Mental Health & Wellbeing of Young People seminars. His website is: http://danhaesler.com/ and he tweets at @danhaesler