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Children in England 'near bottom of class' in well-being survey

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Children in England 'near bottom of class' in well-being survey


Children in England have come out relatively badly in a major international study of young people’s attitudes to their own lives.

In several school-related questions “England ranked fairly poorly”, with particularly problems being bullying, relationships with teachers and other children, learning and the general experience of school.

The study in England published by the Children’s Society was carried out in collaboration with researchers from the University of York.

The information was included as part of the Children’s Worlds Project – an ongoing programme seeking information on children’s lives from their own perspective. So far it has gathered data from 53,000 children aged between 8 – 12 in 15 countries spread across four continents in 2013-14.

Classroom bullies

Children in England came 14th out of 15 countries in two questions concerning their welfare at school, and in the bottom third in several other categories.

In two questions about bullying, around two-fifths of those replied (38 percent) said they had been hit by other children within the past month, while half said they had been left out by classmates over the same period. This experience appeared to be worse than in other countries, although it happened far more frequently in Romania and South Africa.

Children in England expressed a particular dislike for going to school – with barely a quarter expressing a positive view.

Satisfaction levels with school among children in England appeared to drop as they got older – although researchers said one possible explanation was that unlike in many other countries, children changed schools between the relative age groups.

The low satisfaction levels in England were said to be in keeping with those in other northern European countries featuring in the survey: Estonia, Germany and Poland.

In three African countries and Nepal, school featured more prominently as an aspect that children were most satisfied with.

Children in England ranked bottom when it came to doing homework and taking classes outside school time. They were also the most likely to spend time alone.

Life outside school

The international report says the overall picture in terms of children’s evaluation of their own lives is a positive one. Ratings were higher than among adults, and the proportion of children having a sense of low-being was less than one in ten in almost all countries.

There were differences in perception between different countries, with children in several European nations saying they were most satisfied with matters relating to family, home and material possessions.

England’s ranking in different aspects of subjective well-being was fairly low. In several matters concerning life at home and school, and on health and their local area, the satisfaction levels of children in England put them in the bottom half of the international table.

They only came in the top three in terms of those most satisfied when asked about their local police, and in the top half only on two questions about friends and family. Children in England also scored above average for satisfaction with money and things.

Could do better

The Chief Executive of the Children’s Society, Matthew Reed, welcomed what he said was a shift in attitude towards children’s subjective well-being over the past decade.

However he said that around 10 percent of children experienced low levels of well-being and needed support.

“It is a painful fact that many children and young people in the UK today are still suffering hardship, and too often their problems are ignored,” he added.

The Children’s Society acknowledges that “making international comparisons of children’s lives and well-being can be challenging”, because of differences in the way people respond to subjective questions – as well as social, economic and cultural differences between countries.

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