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Report reveals rise in levels of unhappiness in schools

Young people are on average less happy with their life as a whole, with school, friends and how they look than 10 years ago, according to The Good Childhood Report published by The Children’s Society.

More children (aged 10 to 17) are unhappy with school than with the other aspects of life they are asked about. Happiness with school and schoolwork declines significantly with age and is far lower among children in lower income households.

The report cites that 85% of parents and carers are concerned about the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on their household/family over the next 12 months, which will only get worse as this crisis unfolds.

“Our findings highlight a link between children’s happiness with school and their perceptions of their family’s wealth. The cost-of-living crisis must focus decision makers’ attention to family incomes and access to the basics such as heating, food and adequate housing. It is not possible to tackle children’s well-being without tackling child poverty,” said the report.

The Good Childhood report found that more young people are worried about how they look now than in previous years. Almost 1 in 5 (18%) – the equivalent of an estimated 411,000 - 10-15-year-old girls are unhappy with their looks compared to 10% of boys.

Key findings include:

  • UK children’s happiness with their lives continues to decline.
  • More children are unhappy with their appearance than with family, friends, school and schoolwork. Girls are more likely to feel this way than boys.
  • Happiness with school and schoolwork declines significantly with age and was significantly lower among children in lower income households.
  • Over half of parents and carers feel that the pandemic has had a negative impact on the education of their children.
  • One in 8 children were unhappy in school and one in 9 had low wellbeing.

“We know that schools are a vital setting to support young people and improve their well-being, but schools need more support,” said the report.

The government must take accountability for children’s unhappiness with school with children and young people at the centre of all proposed reforms, the report urges.

In terms of supporting children at school, the report calls for schools we need to see a faster rollout of mental health support teams, alongside early support hubs in every community so that no young person has to wait for the help they deserve.

For families hardest hit by the added pressures of increasing costs, The Children’s Society calls for a permanent boost to the social security lifeline, to protect children from the cost-of-living crisis; including a significant increase in child benefit payments.

The government also needs to extend help with school lunches and make free school meals available to every child whose family is supported by Universal Credit.

“No child should suffer without support. Every child deserves a good childhood with access to the help they need,” the report concluded.

Head of Services at WillisPalmer Dave Wareham said: “It is alarming to see that so many more children feel unhappy at school than they have done in previous years and that those from low income families are the hardest hit.”

“The COVID pandemic has had a profound impact on the wellbeing of many children and young people from an increase in mental health problems to families experiencing financial difficulties through furlough, health related problems and job losses. Sadly, this is only going to be exacerbated as the cost-of-living crisis worsens.”

“Mental health support in schools is vital as while schools are well placed to spot signs of mental ill health or other issues within their pupils, teachers already have their hands full with the Covid catch up plans focusing on getting all pupils to where they should be academically.”

“Furthermore, the COVID pandemic did not just bring mental health to the fore. There were increased rates of domestic abuse, substance misuse and safeguarding problems as a result.”

“This is why we launched our School Social Work Service  where an expert Independent Social Worker is based in a school one day per week to support teachers and staff with increased mental health problems but also safeguarding and other societal problems.”

“Whether through a service like ours or through Mental Health Support Teams, schools cannot manage these challenges alone and need the help and guidance to ensure the best outcomes for children,” concluded Dave.

The Good Childhood Report 2022

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