One issue that a local voter has raised with me is wellbeing and particularly youth wellbeing. This is something I’m passionate about and we must do more.
There are lots of factors that impact our wellbeing, and for me the focus of politics should not be more wealth but more wellbeing. It’s more important to be happy than to be rich, obviously riches and happiness might be what people seek but the two don’t always go together. Increasing wellbeing should be one of the main focuses of this election.
As a parent of school age children, I am conscious of the pressures that children today are under. When I was at school it was said that schools should not simply be exam factories, battery farming children for the world of work. Today, children face incredible pressures not just to succeed, but from social media, as well as all the normal pressures that every child faces.
Firstly, put wellbeing at the heart of education. I know the impact of stress in the workplace, if we can equip people to better cope with that stress then we can encourage wellness at work. Stress not only causes absence, but it undermines people’s performance, and makes lives miserable. We need to focus schools on wellbeing. To put pastoral care and emotional education at the heart of our education system. If that means that teachers mark less tests so be it. I fully appreciate that this cannot be simply on top of the current workload for teachers. Good universal wellbeing services and early intervention will stop bigger problems developing later on. This needs to be not just a new mantra, but a genuine investment.
Secondly, art, music, culture and sport support wellbeing. Culture is the glue that sticks us together and we need to embrace and celebrate those cultures. It’s great that well off parents can afford music lessons, for their children but we need to ensure that every child can afford to learn a musical instrument. We need to stop the retreat from art and music in schools. I would love to have school league tables for child participation in art, music and sport. Not just that good participation can be celebrated but to hold government accountable for putting resources where most needed.
Thirdly, address wellbeing issues and exam grades will increase. It is not either wellbeing or results but both. I’m not saying that wellbeing is what is holding back every child’s performance, but for many children address the wellbeing issues and performance will increase.
Fourthly, while putting wellbeing at the heart of education should reduce pressure on specialist wellbeing services, there will still be significant demand. Services should be properly funded so that people get the care when required, there is the same danger people deteriorate when waiting as there is for physical health.
Fifthly, understand the impact of environmental factors. Poor housing is bad for your physical and mental health. Wellbeing needs to be treated holistically. People need good public health so that they avoid toxic relationships, keep away from the danger of addictions, etc. Wellbeing should be considered at the heart of every public policy.
Finally, every child and every individual should be important to us. We need a culture of respect. We need to become a polite society again. Politicians should start by putting their own house in order.