Children in England 'some of the unhappiest' at school

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Bullying is a fact of life for more than a third of children, a new report into children’s wellbeing has found.


Many children feel left out and excluded at school, the report found

According to The Good Childhood report ten and 12-year-olds in England are among the unhappiest in the world at school.

More than half a million said they had been physically bullied each month and many feel left out.

Children in England that were bullied frequently were six times more likely to have low wellbeing that children who were not bullied.

The annual report by the Children's Society, with the University of York, is calling for the Government to make it a legal requirement for schools to provide counselling to pupils, in line with Wales and Northern Ireland.

It also wants children’s mental health funding to promoting children’s wellbeing, rather than just dealing with mental health problems after they occur.

Children become unhappier as the hit their teens, the research suggests, with children in Year Six much more likely to say they enjoyed going to school than those in Year 8.

In a new international comparative study of children's subjective well-being in 15 countries childrne in England ranked 14th for satisfaction with life as a whole.

The research is based on a survey of 53,000 children aged ten and 12 in England, Germany, Norway, South Korea, Poland, Estonia, Spain, Turkey, Romania, Algeria, South Africa, Israel, Ethiopia, Columbia and Nepal.

The study also showed that children in England – especially girls - were particularly dissatisfied with their appearance and body confidence.

Around one in five girls were unhappy with the way they looked, compared to around one in ten boys. 

This gender difference was not found in many other countries.

Girls in England ranked bottom in terms of happiness with their body confidence, appearance and self-confidence compared to girls in every other country surveyed, with the exception of South Korea.

Girls in Colombia topped the league table as being happiest with their bodies.

The report said that children who struggled with their appearance and self-confidence could have problems flourishing.

Overall, children in England are unhappier with their lives than those in 13 other countries including Israel and South Africa – only faring better than those in South Korea.

It is the tenth year of the Children’s Society collaboration with the University of York on research into children's subjective well-being.

Matthew Reed, chief executive of The Children’s Society said, that giving children a happy childhood should be ‘a top priority’.

‘It is deeply worrying that children in this country are so unhappy at school compared to other countries and it is truly shocking that thousands of children are being physically and emotionally bullied, damaging their happiness. School should be a safe haven, not a battleground,’ he said.

‘Despite a long period of austerity, we are one of the richest nations in the world yet the happiness of our children is at rock bottom.’

Professor Jonathan Bradshaw from the Department of Social Policy and Social Work at York, whose research is supported by The Jacobs Foundation, said, ‘As a nation we pay enormous attention to the well-being of our economy, the state of the weather, sporting league tables, the City and the Stock Market.

'Indicators of these take up pages of the media every day. We need to make more effort to monitor the well-being of our children and we need to devote more resources to understanding how they are doing and to ensuring that their childhood is as good as it can be.’

Commenting on the report Dr Mary Bousted, general secretary of the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), said, 'It comes as no surprise that our young people and children are unhappy, with all the pressures placed upon them.

'We know that young people are pressured to look a certain way, to have the latest possessions, to keep up an image on social media and to perform well in endless exams. Many of our children are suffering as a result of racial, sexist and homophobic bullying, poverty, poor living conditions and malicious cyber-bullying, which is taking a dreadful toll on their mental health.
'At a time when schools desperately need help to tackle these issues and support young people, Children and Adolescent Mental Health Services (CAMHS), local authority support and pastoral care staff have been cut to the bone. ATL warns the Government that it cannot play fast and loose with young people’s health in this way.'

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said, 'It is very concerning that this survey shows again that children in schools in England and Wales are more unhappy than in many other countries.

'There needs to be the time devoted in the curriculum to preventing bullying through challenging negative attitudes. The lessons learnt make a significant difference to pupils’ attitudes, not only during their school career but throughout their adult life as well. '

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