Authors and Editors of SPHE publications with Ombudsman for Children Niall Muldoon

The SPHE Network publication Understanding Wellbeing in Changing Times: the Role of SPHE was launched by Dr. Niall Muldoon (Ombudsman for Children) on the 10th February in St. Patrick’s College. On the night he spoke about the importance of mental wellbeing, and building children’s and young people’s capacity to deal with the trials and tribulations that life inevitably throws at us.

This publication is now available to download from the SPHE Network website. It brings together contributions from many of those who presented at our conference of the same name in October 2014. It showcases important issues in the implementation of SPHE at primary and post-primary levels, and will be of interest to teachers and teacher educators for that reason.

The articles are organised under four main themes: mental wellbeing; physical wellbeing; myself and the wider world; and relationships and sexuality.

Professor Mark Morgan tells us about some of the findings of the Growing Up in Ireland study, the largest longitudinal study ever undertaken in Ireland. Interesting findings that are highlighted relate to children’s positive attitude towards school, high self-esteem and good relationships with parents. An area of concern is the fact that a significant number of children said they had no source of information regarding relationships and sexuality, while the realisation that some children have experienced adverse events at an early age gives cause for concern.

Bernie Collins and Anne Marie Kavanagh focus on the practice of circle time and share findings of a small research project with First Year B.Ed. students. The potential of this method for enhancing wellbeing is explored through the prior experience of the students at primary and post-primary level.

Margaret Nohilly interrogates the role of the Designated Liaison Person (DLP) and addresses the lack of evidence in the Irish context about this role. She gives DLPs a voice about their experience in taking on this important role in schools.

Frances Murphy, Maura Coulter and Susan Marron explore common ground between SPHE and PE and make the case for an integrated approach to maximise potential for children to gain skills in taking responsibility while at the same time promoting physical health.

Both Eva Devaney and Sancha Power explore substance misuse prevention education at post-primary level and present research findings on two such projects involving teenagers and their parents. While the models outlined differ, they provide clear evidence about what is effective with young people and outline recommendations for school communities in substance misuse prevention education.

Sinéad Keenan outlines a pilot study on setting up breakfast clubs in primary schools. She makes a strong case for expanding the schools meals programme based on evidence of its benefits for children, families and schools, and advocates a partnership approach to address food poverty.

Carol O’Sullivan and Aoife Titley argue about the importance of developing children’s citizenship skills. Citizenship is explored from historical and more recent perspectives, and readers are asked to consider the potential of citizenship and development education to enhance individual wellbeing and contribute to the common good of society.

In a controversial article, Audrey Bryan problematizes the perception that LGBT children and young people are destined for mental health issues including suicidal ideation and self-harm. She argues that the lived experience of LGBT people is more complex than is sometimes portrayed, and that their capacity for agency can be overlooked.

The articles by Fiona Joyce and Fiona McAuslan provide an insight into classroom-based approaches to human rights education and conflict resolution training in primary schools. A framework is provided for teachers to engage children meaningfully in acquisition of skills and knowledge as a means of empowering them, thereby enhancing their self-efficacy and wellbeing.

Finally, our rapporteur for the conference, Therese Hegarty, gives an overview of recurring themes throughout the articles, and challenges each of us to clarify what we mean when we talk about wellbeing. We are invited to explore how relationships impact on our lives, the interconnectedness of human beings, and the potential not only to manage the present but to create the future through civic engagement at all levels.

We recommend this publication to teachers at all levels, to student teachers, and those that have an interest in exploring wellbeing in order to understand it complexities and potential.