Wellbeing should not be optional

By Greg Whitby, 30 October 2019
Greg Whitby AM is Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta.


Weekly Column from the Executive Director of Schools, Diocese of Parramatta

Did you know that a major review of NSW schools has just been released? Though I’m busting to see big changes to the way we do school in NSW, it’s important that we don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Some commentary on the review suggests that there should be fewer lessons focused on student safety, health and wellbeing issues. This would be the wrong approach. Every great teacher knows that if the kids are not okay, learning is not happening.

It’s a bit of a worry that some of the issues mentioned as detracting from learning and teaching include lessons on anxiety, depression, resilience, childhood obesity, road safety, water safety, languages, cyber safety, anti-bullying, drug education, first aid, stranger danger and healthy eating.

There have also been suggestions that these changes are part of stripping the curriculum back to basics. Really? What could be more basic than helping young people feel happier, healthier, safer and be more resilient? This learning shouldn’t be thought of as an optional extra.

The same review has some really sensible stuff to say about reviewing the ATAR and the hype now associated with the HSC. A recent media story about students gaining early entry into university included some education leaders condemning early entry offers into university. It’s surprising that anyone would defend putting students under unnecessary pressure through the course of their studies.

Going into the HSC exams knowing you already have some great options surely helps students reduce stress and do their best. When each young person finishes the last exam of their HSC, it’s unlikely that they will never work in this way again.

It’s great to see our community having a mature conversation about these matters that have a very real impact on the lives of children and young people. I’d love to see student wellbeing at the centre of our thinking as we try to change together for the best!

Greg Whitby AM
Executive Director of Schools – Diocese of Parramatta


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