Teaching a New Philosophy; Creative Approach: Philosophy Teacher Peter Worley Works in Primary Schools

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Byline: Sarah Harris

BRITAIN'S children are the unhappiest in Europe. They are among theleast likely to enjoy school or to rate their happiness levels as aboveaverage. Overall, they feel left out, awkward and even lonely, according to adamning report by Unicef in 2006.

Experts have blamed the problems on a number of factors including the breakdownof traditional family life.

But researchers from the Institute for Education at London University believethat children's emotional well-being could also be suffering because teacherspay too much attention to tests and not enough to the children themselves.

Pressure on teachers to make their pupils achieve national standards causesthem to focus their lessons on how to pass tests. This makes children anxiousand fearful, stifles their creativity and ruins their confidence in theirability to judge their own work.

'Though we knew before the research started that classrooms are highly charged,we were surprised by just how much children's emotional states can influencetheir capacity to learn,' says Professor Alex Moore, a member of the researchteam.

'Feeling good makes learning pleasurable and easy; feeling bad turns it into astruggle, made harder by the expectation of failure.' Simply taking it forgranted that pupils are happy and ready to learn is clearly no longer enough.So what are schools doing to improve well-being? In 2006, it emerged that eliteWellington College in Berkshire was introducing 'happiness' classes for 14 to16-year-olds.

And Education Secretary Ed Balls has revealed that lessons in happiness,well-being and good manners are being launched in all state secondary schools.Ministers believe that teaching children to express their feelings, managetheir anger and empathise with others will create calmer schools and boostconcentration and motivation.

But some experts believe this 'touchy-feely' initiative is not the bestapproach.

Frank Furedi, professor of sociology at Kent University and author of TherapyCulture, has argued that children are more likely to develop emotional problemsif they are encouraged to become obsessed with their emotions.

And some academics believe that teaching philosophywhich has a more disciplined and academic frameworkto pupils from primary level upwards could achieve a more successful, long-termimpact.

A study by Dundee University suggests that learning philosophythe rational investigation of existence, ethics and knowledgeraises children's IQ by up to 6. …