by Iona Jackson, Head of Research, Edurio
The wellbeing of children and young people has always been important, and this has intensified since the start of the pandemic. We recently launched our Pupil Learning Experience and Wellbeing Review
, which provides further valuable insight for school and trust leaders and, as Daniel Muijs points out in the report, is important for school, college and trust leaders to consider.
It is clear that wellbeing is an issue for pupils of all ages, genders, and other characteristics, with only 47% of pupils feeling well overall. The proportion of pupils feeling stressed (46%) and overworked (43%) is also noteworthy. While it is reasonable to expect everyone to feel stressed at times, it can affect some pupils more than others, and there may be more work to ensure interventions come at the right time for the right pupils. For example, pupils who have a lot of extra responsibilities outside of school report far higher levels of overworking. This may feel intuitive since they have both school work and additional responsibilities whilst others only have school work, but it is important to acknowledge.
The report provides an interesting look at differences between pupils at different schools. It highlights differences when looking at schools in different regions, with pupils in the south seeming to be coping better than pupils in the East of England and parts of the north. There is also a small but statistically sound correlation between pupil wellbeing and a school’s Ofsted rating. In particular, those at outstanding schools fare worse than those at schools rated good or requires improvement.
Who can I talk to?
Safety and support are also a concern. Whilst the majority of pupils reported that they feel safe in school, the one in ten who do not, and around one in five who report being bullied, are important groups that should not be ignored. Our research also suggests that some support networks may be being underutilised. Pupils also reported who they would talk to if they felt sad or worried, stating that parents and friends were their main choice. 41% of pupils feel they have an adult at school who they trust and can talk to, and only 29% would consider speaking to a teacher if they felt sad or worried, lower than the proportion who would speak to classmates (41%) or parents (48%).
If, as comments suggest, there are pupils who see their teachers only as people who teach them about particular subjects, it may be that there is an opportunity for additional wellbeing support that is currently not being considered by pupils.
In our Pupil Learning Experience and Wellbeing Review
report, Anna Menzel, a first-year university student, points out pupils are not given extensive training on how to deal with wellbeing issues. This may mean pupils are giving bad advice to their peers as they don’t know how to handle the situations that arise, and it almost certainly means an additional emotional burden on the pupils who are providing that support. Anna describes her own experiences, and I suspect they resonate with many pupils.
Opportunities for additional support
My final observation from the study is how issues intensify as pupils age. It has long been understood that adolescence can be a difficult time, and to a large extent the decrease in wellbeing scores highlighted in the report are no surprise. It’s unlikely that a school or college would be able to prevent this downward trend entirely, as the number of factors (some societal, some biological) contributing to lower wellbeing during these years are beyond the control of schools and the education system.
However, the data does suggest that there’s an opportunity to provide additional support ahead of and during particularly difficult times; low sleep quality and feelings of overworking peak during exam years, and we see another big shift as pupils move from Year 6 to Year 7.
Overall, this report provides vital additional context on how and when pupil wellbeing can be negatively affected. Across the country, school, college and trust leaders are already working hard to support children and young people and there is excellent work taking place already. However, this report is a reminder that we must continue to focus on this area and provides valuable insight to inform our strategies.
Iona Jackson is Head of Research at Edurio, an ASCL Premier Partner
Edurio are event sponsors for the ASCL Conference for Strategic Leaders in Trusts
on 13 January 2022.