Conference, 2014 – Promoting Social, Emotional, Behavioural and Mental Health in Childhood & Education

The symposium addressed researchers, practitioners, and others interested in the latest developments and findings in the field of childhood and education with a specific focus on emotional, social, behavioural and mental health issues.


  • Keynote 1: Professor Carol Hayden, Troubled Families
  • Keynote 2: Dr Emma Rich, Childhood, the body and risk: is a focus on obesity good for children’s health?
  • Parallel session 1: Childhood and Culture
    • Lexie Scherer, ‘Religion is good for you, perhaps wearing the burqua would be good for you to do in your religion’
    • Dawn Jones, This paper is dedicated to those professionals and childhood practitioners who supported parents and children in Christchurch New Zealand post earthquake 2010 and most notably February 2011
  • Parallel session 2: Childhood, Health and Well-Being
    • Emma Kirkby and Clare Wilson, The effect of recalling positive self-defining memories on adolescent well-being
    • Graham Robertson, You mug me off to the max, bruv’
  • Parallel session 3: Early Years Education, Care and Well-Being
    • Joy Chalke, Issues related to professionalising care and privileging education: what matters when looking after young children?
    • Emma Maynard, Helga Stittrich-Lyons, Caroline Emery, Early years and safeguarding
  • Parallel session 4: Student Behaviour in the Classroom
    • Karen Morris, Promoting Positive Behaviour with a Focus on the Importance of Autonomy
    • Simon Edwards, Making meaning out of school: an ethnographic study into students’ perceptions of their behaviour in the classroom

Keynote speakers

This event featured two keynote speakers:

Professor Carol Hayden, Institute of Criminal Justice, University of Portsmouth. ‘Researching the “Troubled Families” Programme in England: early observations’

It is well documented how in recent decades social policy and crime have become inextricably linked. So, welfare and social justice based issues are often recast in relation to anti-social (and criminal) behaviour. The ‘Troubled Families’ programme is an example of this criminalisation of social policy. This is a national programme which aims to ‘turn around’ the 120,000 ‘most troubled’ families in England by 2015. Troubled families are characterised as those who have problems and cause problems to those around them. Improving school attendance is one of the key national criteria, alongside reducing worklessness, crime and ASB and families that are ‘high cost’ to the public purse. The article reviews the evidence base for the overall approach of the programme, as well as the scale of the issue. Targeted and persistent interventions characterise the way of working, as does a whole family approach. Early indications are that behavioural change is likely to be achieved in some families, but that addressing ‘worklessness’ (a key focus of the programme) presents the biggest challenge. An even bigger challenge is helping families to find work that will move them out of poverty. The paper draws on ongoing research in two contrasting local authorities implementing the programme.

Dr Emma Rich, Sport and Education, Department of Education, University of Bath. ‘Childhood, the body and Risk: Is a focus on obesity good for children’s health?’

Over the last decade, talk of the ‘obesity epidemic’ has dominated the discursive terrain of health within the UK. Concerns that young people, particularly children, are too ‘fat’ ‘overweight’ or ‘obese’ and at risk have resulted in a series of anti-obesity interventions, policies and health practices, across a range of learning environments, that have sought to monitor and regulate the bodies and lifestyles of increasingly younger children.

It is hardly surprising that at the same time a parallel research literature reports increasing numbers of the population are experiencing significant dissatisfaction or disaffection with their bodies.

Drawing on research spanning a decade, I will argue that the ways in which health messages around weight and ‘obesity’ are being voiced and interpreted across a range of physical cultural sites and contexts, from formal health education to informal learning environments such as mobile apps and social media, may ironically, have potentially harmful effects on those it targets.

Given these different perspectives, the practical question remains; how are we to approach issues of weight and health sensitively and safely? In considering the future direction of how we might begin to address this, I will explore the idea of border crossing; this approach focuses on the potential for practitioners, policymakers, academics and a range of significant others involved in research and debate in this field to produce spaces through which cross sector dialogue can focus on ethical and respectful social change.

Finally, I will highlight a number of questions about the language and politics of health education and the conditions through which critical scholars and practitioners might be able to forge productive and collaborative relationships.