Ministers urged to make schools measure pupils' wellbeing as child happiness hits lowest in decade

Posted On: 
28th August 2019

Ministers have been urged to tackle the “scandal” of falling happiness among children by making schools measure pupils’ well-being every year.

The Children’s Society said a short survey of all secondary school pupils would link wellbeing data with factors such as demographics, attainment, school moves, and social indicators like eligibility for free meals.

It came as the charity found that a quarter of a million UK children are unhappy with their lives, with happiness at its lowest since 2009.

Labour hits out at Tory education policies as GCSE gap between rich and poor pupils widens

Excluded pupils ‘abandoned by schools,’ MPs warn

Attainment gap between poorest pupils widens since 2007, report finds

Their study revealed that the gap between boys' and girls' happiness relating to their appearance had narrowed, despite it being traditionally less of a worry among boys.

Meanwhile over-13s were significantly less happy with how they look compared to 10-12 year-olds, with one pupil citing the role of Instagram on body expectations.

The Good Childhood Report also found a third (33%) of 10-17 year olds have concerns about whether they will have enough money in the future, with more than a quarter (29%) worrying about having a job. 

Elsewhere it showed most common worries among 10 to 17 year olds were crime (42%), followed by the environment (41%) and information sharing online (37%).

The group said a national measurement of well-being for all children aged 11-18 would enable the experiences of young people to be recorded and for issues to be dealt with for the benefit of future generations.

Labour said the report should be a "wake-up call" for the Government and said it would support the introduction of such a policy. 

Mark Russell, Chief Executive at The Children’s Society says: “Modern childhood is a happy and carefree time for most, yet for too many it is not. It is a national scandal that children’s unhappiness is increasing so quickly.  

“Today’s young people are becoming progressively unhappy with their friendships – one of the fundamental building blocks of well-being – as well as appearance and school.

"Children are also burdened with fears ranging from worrying about the future, not having enough money to not feeling safe at school and bullying. Many young people tell us they feel side-lined and ignored by those in power.

"The Children’s Society is committed to listening to young people, and working with them to speak up and speak out, to enable every child to thrive not just survive.

"We are urging the Government to introduce a national measurement of children’s well-being so we can really listen, respond and show young people they matter."

'WAKE-UP CALL'

Shadow Health Secretary Jonathan Ashworth said: “It’s shameful that so many children report being so unhappy and this report should act as a wakeup call to ministers.

"The current Tory government is failing to act. Our children’s health should be a national priority, yet after nine years of austerity the government’s response to the issue of child health has been piecemeal as it continues to squeeze the NHS and take money from our public health system and schools.

"We would welcome a national measurement of children’s wellbeing – we have committed to introduce a Future Generations Wellbeing Act to prioritise children’s health and wellbeing as a priority for the next Labour government because every child deserve a healthy, happy childhood."

A Government spokesperson said: “We want young people growing up in a modern Britain to feel confident tackling the challenges life throws at them.

That is why we’re giving teachers the power to deal with bad behaviour and bullying in the classroom, investing billions every year in mental health support for young people, and providing quicker access to specialist treatment where needed.

“Through our new compulsory health education, pupils will be taught how to recognise the signs of poor mental health and how to stay safe online.

“We’re also giving young people a voice on the issues they care about, such as the environment, climate change and crime or violence, through the Youth Charter currently in development.”