Why happiness should go to the top of the class in schools

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YOGADOO Founder, Lucy Aston believes our children's happiness needs to go to the top of the class in schools.

"We want a happiness revolution in our schools, where schools put happiness and wellbeing of pupils, equal to academic performance." I was eating breakfast watching the news when I heard Professor Richard Layard's words boom from the television. I let out an audible 'Hurrah' as his sentiment is at the very core of what YOGADOO stands for.

We want a happiness revolution in our schools, where schools put happiness and wellbeing of pupils, equal to academic performance.
— Professor Richard Layard

Layard and his colleagues at the Wellbeing research programme at the London School of Economics’ Centre for Economic Performance conclude that a child’s emotional health is equal to, if not more important than grades.

I would actually go further, and suggest that a child's happiness and physical and mental wellbeing at school is so much more important than academic qualifications. Incidentally,  the evidence is there to suggest that happy children perform better academically in the long run.

The London School of Economics and Political Science 'Healthy Minds' project says 'happiness' should be factored into the curriculum. Healthy Minds is a unique and exciting research project that will follow 10,000 secondary school students for 4 years. The research aims to evidence the link between emotionally stable, self-efficacious students and improved behaviour and academic attainment in school.

33 secondary schools will capture the impact of teaching a specific curriculum for one lesson per week from year 7 through to year 10. Teachers from the 33 schools are involved in extensive, specialist training to assist in the delivery of the personal, social and health lessons.

One school in Dartford holds the weekly 'healthy minds' lessons designed to make pupils more aware of their own mental health. Some of the year 7-11 pupils who took part said: 

“I think it’s really important in helping us to build character and helping us develop as children." 

"If you have a problem, it helps you to solve it."

"It’s all good going to maths lessons, science lessons, they build your brain. Healthy minds builds up your character."

The news about the 'Healthy Minds' project hit the headlines on the same day as the 'Time to talk' mental health campaign was active on social media. It seems that there has been a tidal surge recently, in the conversation around children and young people's mental health, which can only be a good thing.

The news about the ‘Healthy Minds’ project hit the news on the same day as the ‘Time to talk’ campaign was active on social media. It seems that there has been a recent tidal surge in the conversation around children and young people’s mental health, which can only be a good thing.
— Founder of YOGADOO, Lucy Aston

YOGADOO teachers work in over 50 schools across Bath, North Somerset, South Gloucestershire, Wiltshire, Somerset and Bristol helping children and young people to learn relaxation, emotional and self-regulation techniques through yoga and mindfulness - all of which are crucial life skills to help improve the mental health and wellbeing of pupils in schools and for the rest of their lives.

As a mother, I am more interested in whether our son is happy at school, than how he did in his spelling test. And although I'd like him to achieve his full potential, that is not at any cost.

Whilst I don't want to wrap him up in cotton wool and completely protect him from the stresses and pressures of school work and eventually, exams - I want to make sure he is happy and able to talk to us about how is feeling, and to have the coping mechanisms to deal with those more difficult times. But ultimately, I want him to be happy. I want him to love learning and to be a well-balanced child who can engage and interact with, and care for others. 

More and more schools are putting the mental health and wellbeing of pupils at the heart of what they do. Many of them have made the link between happy and healthy children and improved achievement. Only this week, I ran yoga taster sessions for over 200 pupils at St Saviours School in Bath as part of their wellbeing week. I also ran an after school yoga and relaxation session for the staff of the school.

Healthy children are happy children, and happy children learn better."

YOGADOO founder Lucy Aston, is a mother, trained children's and adult's yoga teacher and mindfulness practitioner.