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Last Updated: Thursday, 3 May 2007, 11:46 GMT 12:46 UK
Pupils 'need happiness lessons'
Do we need lessons in life?
Teachers should give pupils lessons in how to cope with life and be happy, a government adviser says.

Professor Lord Richard Layard, from the London School of Economics, believes the central purpose of schools should be to teach "the secrets of happiness".

He is calling for a new generation of teachers specialising in what is known as "emotional intelligence".

Teachers' leaders say they do all they can to promote children's well-being and the timetable is already crowded.

Lord Layard said people were no happier today than they were 50 years ago and that there had been a sharp fall in the numbers saying they trusted other people.

"We have had endless experiments trying to teach people not to take drugs or drink which have failed.

Schools are tests and exam factories these days
John Bangs, NUT

"We need to go down the route of giving values to people. There are scientifically-evaluated programmes which have halved depression in teenagers."

He said schools should follow programmes in "emotional intelligence", so that children could learn how to manage their emotions and look at attitudes to work and money.

The ideas could be made part of lessons in personal, social and health education, he said.

John Bangs of the National Union of Teachers said: "Our members recognise the diagnosis but will be concerned by the solution.

"Teachers spend a lot of time trying to ensure that their pupils are happy people, however, schools are test and exam factories these days.

"If schools are going to spend more time on developing ethos and encouraging pupils to be confident and happy then less time needs to be spent on lessons."

Teenage years

Wellington College introduced a programme of happiness or well-being lessons for older pupils last autumn.

The independent school collaborated with the Well-Being Institute of the University of Cambridge to devise the programme.

Children playing in Amsterdam
Such lessons could cut bullying, campaigners say

The school's website says the aim is to equip children "with an understanding of what makes lives thrive and flourish, and how they can improve their chances of experiencing happiness, good health, a sense of accomplishment and lasting companionship.

"The lessons should help them cope better during their teenage years, both in and out of school, and later at university."

The lessons are held once a fortnight throughout the school year.

Anti-bullying campaigners believe teaching children about their emotions will help improve behaviour in schools.

Emma-Jane Cross, of the charity Beatbullying said: "Teaching children emotional intelligence is central to the successful prevention of bullying behaviour all through their lives.

"We have seen this work in our bullying prevention programme for primary schools. After working with Beatbullying, schools report a significant reduction in bullying and disruptive behaviour of, on average, 40%."

Should happiness be taught in schools? Could teaching pupils lessons in emotional intelligence help tackle issues like bullying?

Your comments:

I think that it's a bad idea and students these days wouldn't listen anyway! It's something that they should be taught at home by the people who have the most effect on them not someone who they don't truly know.
Amy Harvey, Warwickshire

Yet another initiative that makes teachers responsible for the upbringing of children that aren't their own. One begins to wonder when getting a teaching qualification made you responsible for the moral, social, ethical, emotional upbringing of students that you see for a couple of hours a week. I'd also like to know, who's going to give me lessons in happiness so that I can leave my problems at home and not have to contend with 30 adolescents who don't seem to care what happens outside their own little worlds.
Jo, Wolverhampton, UK

If schools teach children how to get the best out of themselves, whatever their skills level - that is, educate them - then happiness in life will surely follow. 'Happiness lessons' are a distraction from the core business of education, which is emancipation. On the 'financial awareness' subject, I would have thought that financial responsibility would be a parental responsibility - especially for someone who has direct experience!
Ruari McCallion, Shaftesbury, UK

What chance do our children have when they are being tested and set targets as soon as they go into nurseries? They soon pick up which children are 'cleverer' than themselves. Many children also have to deal with relationship breakdowns and a series of girl/boyfriends flitting in and out of their lives. Thirty years ago children had a childhood, what do they have now? Perhaps that balance needs to be restored
Louise, Walsall

As a teacher, I get tired of people telling me what to teach and how responsible we are for the welfare of children. I don't know a single teacher that does not promote social and emotional intelligence throughout the day. Parents are the ones who need to be educated on how to be good parents, teach their children good social values such as sharing, how to deal with conflict, etc. Demonstrating these in front of their children would also benefit them greatly.
Stuart, London

I think this would be a good idea. There seems to be more and more young people suffering with depression and having self harming issues nowadays. Maybe some kind of happiness or positive thinking teaching would help.
Dawn Field, Eastleigh, UK

This sounds like the sort of grounding that should form the basis of every child's upbringing, but it is not something that can be taught in lessons; it is something that should be innate within every family from the word go. What has happened to parental responsibility these days? Is it no longer 'convenient?' for the have-it-all, want-it-all-now generation?
Lizzie, London

I think this is a superb idea. Rather than being at the bottom of the cliff, finally something proactive, practical and positive that would be of use to all pupils. To have advice from people who have "been there" can be invaluable, and it is not always readily available from parents and the like.
James, Oxford

However, "teaching happiness" is a total pipe dream. It is blatantly obvious that the ever growing divide between the rich and poor, the increasing number of people who struggle on a day to day basis, and the fact that this government only cares about it's friends in big business rather than trying to re-build and forge community in spirit have a major impact on children's personal lives, attitude towards society and happiness. Unfortunately, it will be another scheme to say "we care", when in fact that is the furthest from the truth.
Andrew Duke, Sutton, England

Yet another social problem that teachers are expected to solve with no extra resources or training. One wonders if "experts" will look at some of these issues and realise that maybe the parents have some responsibility to educate their children. Still, it fills an empty news day reporting more meaningless studies that are a total waste of money.
Louise Parsons, Radstock, UK

We should be teaching children about the real world. I am a mortgage broker and have an 18 year old son. He has no idea about obtaining finance and what the implications are if you default on your loan or credit card. Kids need to be taught or guided in living a practical life and how people are all different and how we must come to understand, know and tolerate people in society.
Nazneen Khan, Wallington Surrey

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