English schoolchildren are 'among the unhappiest'

21 August 2015

© AGENDA/CHILDREN'S SOCIETY

CHILDREN in England are among the unhappiest in the world at school, and more than half a million of them are being bullied every month, a survey by the Children’s Society suggests.

In the charity’s Good Childhood Report 2015, carried out in collaboration with the University of York, children in England were found to be more dissatisfied with their school experience than those in 11 other countries, including Uganda, Ethiopia, and Algeria, and marginally happier than those in Germany, South Korea, and Estonia.

The findings, released on Wednesday, also suggest that more than a third of children in England have been physically bullied in the past month, and half felt excluded. The research points to a stalling in overall life-satisfaction for children since 2008, after it found that five to ten per cent had low levels of well-being.

The study, which is the fourth of its kind in a decade, also suggests that children become unhappier as they reach teenage years. Most said that their relationship with teachers, school subjects, and the other children, were main concerns, although girls in England were also ranked lowest in terms of happiness with their appearance and self-confidence, compared with girls in every other country surveyed, with the exception of South Korea.

The Children’s Society is urging the Government to make it a legal requirement for schools in England to provide counselling to pupils, as in Wales and Northern Ireland. The charity is also calling on schools to develop children’s welfare by taking action to reduce bullying.

The chief executive of the Children’s Society, Matthew Reed, said that the findings were "deeply worrying"."School should be a safe haven, not a battleground," he said. "We are one of the richest nations in the world; yet the happiness of our children is at rock bottom.

"We need to urgently find a way to make young people feel happier about their lives, to avoid storing up problems for the future. Giving children a happy childhood should be our top priority."

The Children’s Society observed more than 50,000 schoolchildren aged ten and 12, in 15 countries. Estimates by ONS suggest that there are more than 1.1 million schoolchildren of that age in the country.

In a summary of the findings, the report states that there is a "substantial difference" between low subjective well-being and mental ill-health, but that further research has highlighted a link between the two.

The Children’s Society campaigns for children and teenagers on issues of mental health, poverty, abuse, and neglect. It is lobbying for questions on children’s well-being to be included in a nationwide survey by the Department of Health of children’s mental health.

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