In June 2006, the society for educational studies put out a call for proposals for colleagues interesting in hosting one of three regional research seminars on behalf of the SES as a follow up to the themes explored during the society’s 2006 Anual seminar in London – Every child matters: A consideration and critique – Challenges for education. We (myself and professor John Evans) were lucky enough to receive a funding award to host a follow up seminar which will take place in 2007 (details of registration to follow).
Totally pedagogised ‘healthy’ schools and the social rights of young people: new challenges for education?
The proposed seminar will encourage debate and discussion on how the contexts of schooling and pedagogy, are being affected by the targeting of schools as contexts within which to address ‘health issues’. As part of the Every Child Matters: Change for Children programme, supported by the Children Act 2004, children’s trusts are currently being established with an important role in coordinating local programmes to tackle child obesity. Significant policy and practice developments associated with wider health concerns associated with an obesity epidemic, have therefore been implemented across schools in the
UK and other countries. Although under the guise of liberal pedagogy to ‘improve health’ the barrage of recent policy initiatives, associated with changing young peoples diets and regulating and monitoring their health and weight, raise important questions concerning the social rights of young people in educational settings. Many of these policies and initiatives are presented as liberal practices in which ‘every child’s health matters’ and thus every child should be educated on matters related to making ‘informed choices’ about ‘healthy lifestyles’. However, increasingly, evidence is suggesting that collectively, these initiatives are creating new forms of regulation across every aspect of school life which may have serious effects upon their well being, identities, and impede wider social justice agendas. They not only press young people towards excessive self-monitoring and regulation, but also reconstitute meanings around the purpose of schooling and of young people as social actors. Furthermore, many of these initiatives are contributing towards the reconstitution of health , as a new feature of what Ball (2004) refers to as ‘performativity’ within schools where students and teachers are subject to increasing forms of accountability, comparison and competition. Health, including ones weight, size, shape, physical activity, diet and lifestyle, have become a feature of schooling where students are to show evidence of a willingness to work on themselves, and meet criteria and standards set outside those settings over which they have little or no control. Despite recent warnings alluding to the potential damages of a performance culture upon young peoples mental health, well being, and sense of self, current health imperatives may be exacerbating such forms of schooling. The role that schools should play in addressing health issues, particularly concerns over weight and obesity is now a significant and timely matter as ‘debate’ on these matters pervades the cultural terrain, and is repeatedly aired in the popular media. Various agencies with vested interests in obesity and related health issues argue the potential benefits of current health initiatives in schools and also propose new ones. For example,
UK Government proposals to annually weigh children in primary schools, recently provoked very public debates in the media between the Children’s Commission and the Department of Health. Health issues are no longer an issue for those working in health or physical education but have become matters for educational studies more broadly in terms of the impact these policies are having upon the entire schooling culture and its students. In the seminar, we ask: Are health agendas, shaping school cultures towards accountability, ‘performativity’ and comparability in ways which have particularly damaging consequences for young people?
The seminar will therefore explore significant wider educational matters concerning regulation, policy and practice and the social rights of young people in education, via a focus on current developments in health education. Specifically, it will consider how wider social discourses are being (re)contextualised within school settings in ways which reach in and regulate every feature of school life. It will draw together papers which highlight how, via the regulation of young people and their spaces, schools are emerging as microcosms of a totally pedagogised society ( Bernstein, 2001) in which ‘pedagogy’ becomes everyone’s concern, everywhere. Together, the participants will explore how health policies increasingly encode not only Physical Education and Health curriculum and practice but virtually every aspect of school life (e.g. playground and lunchtime behaviour, peer group relationships) and how these processes impact students’ rights, responsibilities and sense of value and self. Ostensibl, such policies are articulated as liberal practices that empower and improve the health of young people, however, the papers in this seminar will raise serious issues around the implicit ethic and morality of such policies, and their capacity to control and regulate and redefine the social rights of young people Although focusing on health policy, the seminar will thus be of interests to all educationalists and researchers concerned with issues of social justice and the ways in which contemporary education policy is fashioned and impact the rights, responsibilities and practices of teachers and students. The one day seminar will be hosted by the
Sport and Exercise Sciences,Loughborough
University. Potential speakers have all engaged with international research on social analysis of the obesity debate, health, and schooling the body with reference to the implications for issues of identity, pedagogy and/or educational policy