The Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) represents members from all professions across the education sector. As educational professionals, we care about the young people we teach and over the last 10 years have become increasingly concerned about the mounting pressures on young people around body image.
This pressure has become more prominent as youngsters are now exposed to images of beautiful and ‘perfect’ celebrities 24/7. Comparisons to these photo-shopped beauties results in low body confidence that is so debilitating that it prevents young people from learning and taking a full and active part in extra-curricular activities. At worse, it can lead to the development of mental health issues, including eating disorders and depression. The self-esteem of many young people is so low that they are not able to enjoy their educational experience and achieve their full potential.
I proposed a motion on body image education at the ATL Annual Conference in 2013. I wished to raise awareness about the importance of body image education and to play a part in ensuring that all youngsters and their parents have access to high quality resources, information and networks that enable them to build body confidence. We have provided continuing professional development for teachers to help them to build their skills to deliver age-appropriate body confidence lessons in schools as part of the PSHE programme. As a result of this motion ATL became campaign stakeholders in the Campaign for Body Confidence. We hope that youngsters will aspire to have healthy bodies and will appreciate the natural diversity of healthy bodies. This should empower young people to develop body confidence and help to improve self-esteem and emotional resilience.
We believe that as educational professionals, we must help to expose the myth that is the ‘ideal body type’ for boys and girls. We must encourage young people to ‘be real’, so that they can enjoy their healthy bodies and embrace diversity.