Values, happiness, performance and pay

Rosemary Dewan

Rosemary Dewan is the CEO of the Human Values Foundation which promotes the importance of teaching human values in schools. Since 1995 it has been providing practical, cross-curricular programmes for personal development and behaviour management, integrating SMSC, PSHE education, Citizenship, PLTS and SEAL.

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It is said that money can’t buy happiness but we know that one’s state of happiness affects one’s performance – be it as an adult or a child – and that before long, for more teachers, there is likely to be a stronger link between their pay and performance.

The education landscape is in a state of flux and increasingly there is a move towards listening to young people’s views. But who are the stakeholders – children, their parents and carers, teachers and others involved in the development of young people, future employers? Pupils may well find they are being encouraged to take more ownership of their learning. Teachers are asking themselves whether they need to teach differently and if so, how, in order to best meet the needs of their various students.

How is success currently being identified, monitored and measured? Can it be articulated in such a way that it can be properly evaluated and the ongoing effects proven? The education of a person is an investment spanning many years and takes place in a variety of situations. Apart from academic and other graded achievements and qualifications gained, are there adequate benchmarks against which to measure teaching outcomes in a meaningful way and what are the timescales involved?

Some progress can be quantified by reference to exam and test results but it is difficult to understand and evaluate the progress that learners make when one considers more intangible or ‘soft’ outcomes, such as changes and improvements in self-esteem, confidence, motivation and happiness, which are all fundamental to a person’s development and success in life.

Values considerations – boosting happiness and enhancing wellbeing

Most of us have never given any serious thought to the values we portray and choose to live by but if we did so, realising the power from this exercise, we might well begin to feel and act very differently!

Studies have shown that when a school actively embraces values so that some are explicitly expressed in its vision for the entire school community, while others define its culture, and consideration of values becomes an integral part of all that takes place in the school, a wide range of positive changes can come about including:

  • improvements in self-esteem and confidence
  • mastery of key personal, emotional and social skills
  • better academic performance
  • heightened happiness and wellbeing
  • more beneficial attitudes and behaviour
  • raised aspirations
  • more consistent attendance
  • less truancy

In a recent survey of 16 to 19-year olds, amongst their top national concerns were drugs, alcohol, crime and violence. The systematic study and exploration of values during school days can help to raise awareness and develop positive mindsets along with gaining a greater understanding of the impacts of different values on participants’ thinking, decision-making, actions and behaviour.

With individuals feeling more enlightened and informed, this could lead to significant reductions in some extremely costly characteristics of our national life today, such as:

  • drug abuse
  • alcohol consumption
  • lack of exercise
  • obesity
  • criminal activity

Transition into adulthood

On leaving school, some young people will opt to continue their education while others will seek training and others will enter the employment market or begin to apply their talents to develop new businesses. Studies have shown that young men between the ages of 16 and 18, who are not in education, employment or training (“NEETs”), are four times more likely to be unemployed later in their lives and five times more likely to have a criminal record.

With today’s broader concept of schooling, the changing role of teachers and the growing awareness of the importance of the engagement of parents and carers in their children’s education, are we, as adult citizens, being adequately equipped to prepare our young citizens for life and parenthood?

Quality teaching and leadership

Based on the premise that when children are happy they are likely to be receptive to learning and achieve more, substantial dividends could arise from collaboratively and systematically embedding positive, life-enriching values into every aspect of a child’s education experience. A number of teachers, who have pursued this strategy, have been very pleasantly surprised at the extent to which it has benefited their pupils and transformed the quality of their own teaching and leadership skills.

Here is an idea to start the process, with the potential of giving a boost to your own overall happiness and wellbeing! Action for Happiness has developed “10 Keys to Happier Living” and presents them as the “GREAT DREAM” with the following practical suggestions:



Do things for others



Connect with people



Take care of your body



Notice the world around


Trying out

Keep learning new things






Have goals to look forward to



Find ways to bounce back



Take a positive approach



Be comfortable with who you are



Be part of something bigger

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