‘We’re in a prime position …’: secondary English teachers’ perspectives on their responsibility for health and wellbeing

Barrett, Louise G. (2024) ‘We’re in a prime position …’: secondary English teachers’ perspectives on their responsibility for health and wellbeing. Ed.D thesis, University of Glasgow.

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In this dissertation, I set out to explore the ways in which teachers of English in Scottish secondary schools understand and enact their responsibility for health and wellbeing, and to identify factors which enable or constrain that enactment. Since proposals were first introduced in 2004, the Scottish Curriculum for Excellence has placed at its centre the health and wellbeing of children and young people. Aspects of health and wellbeing, including mental, emotional and social wellbeing, are considered to be the responsibility of all teachers. Despite the inclusion of mental wellbeing in the curriculum, reports published before and since the COVID-19 pandemic have noted increasing mental health issues amongst young people of secondary school age.

The overarching policy for education in Scotland, the National Improvement Framework, first published by Scottish Government in 2016, sets out key priorities which include improving the health and wellbeing of children and young people, alongside the raising of attainment in literacy and numeracy. Within the context of the secondary school curriculum, there is a possible tension for English teachers created by the dual expectation to raise pupils’ attainment in literacy and to contribute to improving their health and wellbeing through teaching and learning of the subject of English. My interest in exploring this tension arose from my role as subject tutor for secondary English within a Scottish university offering programmes of initial teacher education and my desire to support student teachers of English to meet the requirements of the Standard for Provisional Registration (General Teaching Council for Scotland, 2021), which include effective teaching and learning of the subject and the promoting of pupils’ wellbeing.

In addition to exploring definitions and curricular expectations in relation to health and wellbeing and English, I examined the concerns raised by Ecclestone and Hayes (2008, 2009, 2019) about a rise in therapeutic education and what they see as the consequent diminishing of the subject, in the sense of the young person and of the curriculum area. I explored the concept of wellbeing as flourishing and the role of the arts, including literature, in promoting flourishing, and this led to the identification of Nussbaum’s Capabilities Approach as a suitable framework for analysis of interview data. A review of recent primary research literature examining the implementation of health and wellbeing promotion in the UK, Australia and New Zealand revealed influences on understandings of wellbeing, the importance of relationships within school settings and tensions between attainment in secondary subjects and the enactment of health and wellbeing policy .

I conducted semi-structured interviews with eight teachers of English and analysed the data gathered through the lens of Nussbaum’s Capabilities Approach. Findings suggest a significant role for English teachers in developing functionings within the school environment, and capabilities for the future, in several areas. The central position of English in the secondary school curriculum, with often daily timetabling of classes for each year group, and the discursive nature of the subject enable English teachers to contribute significantly to the whole school approach to health and wellbeing, particularly in the areas of Emotions and Affiliation. The teaching of literature, in particular, and creative writing offers rich contexts for the development of capabilities and functionings in the areas of Senses, imagination, and thought, Affiliation, Practical reason, and Emotions.

Item Type: Thesis (Ed.D)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Subjects: L Education > LB Theory and practice of education
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Hedge, Professor Nicki and Enslin, Professor Penny
Date of Award: 2024
Depositing User: Theses Team
Unique ID: glathesis:2024-84147
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 26 Mar 2024 09:32
Last Modified: 26 Mar 2024 09:35
Thesis DOI: 10.5525/gla.thesis.84147
URI: https://theses.gla.ac.uk/id/eprint/84147

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