6 questions for schools to consider following the State of the Nation report on wellbeing

The Department for Education released their first ‘State of the Nation’ report into children and young people’s wellbeing.  There is a strong link between subjective wellbeing and a host of other life outcomes. The report only looks at children aged 10-24 years.

Wellbeing declines as children get older

The age of the child is the most consistent marker of their wellbeing score, with 15-16 year olds reporting lower wellbeing than 10-12 year olds. This continues into early adulthood with 20-24 year olds reporting even lower wellbeing. This trend has persisted since at least 2009. There is a big gender difference emerging in the mid-teenage years with girls reporting lower wellbeing. For older children anxiety increases with age, as does dissatisfaction with their appearance.

Sadly, wellbeing has being declining for children and young people since 2012.

Q1) Why does wellbeing decrease with age?

Q2) What can be done to equip young people with the skills to support their own mental health as they grow up?

Bullying is a concern especially for some groups

Rates of bullying were higher among girls, those from poorer families, those with an illness or disability and those receiving extra support at school.

Prevalence of bullying decreases with age. This implies that the decrease in wellbeing as children get older is not explained by bullying.

Bullying does not result in lower wellbeing, although it is a strong predictor of lower wellbeing. The data implies that if strong protective factors such as high-quality friendships and family relationships may mitigate the effects of bullying on overall wellbeing.

Q3) How can school policies and processes support those where bullying is likely to be reducing their overall wellbeing?

Happiness with school

Happiness with school decreased with age. This trend was the same for both girls and boys with no notable difference between the genders. When it comes to schoolwork, boys are more unhappy than girls, a gender difference which has existed since 2009.

There is evidence that higher levels of emotional difficulties are linked to increased absences from school and lower attainment. However, it is an area needing more research.

Q4) Why does happiness with school decrease with age?

Q5) What can be done to support boys have similar levels of happiness as girls when it comes to school work?

FSM and SEN children have lower wellbeing, but this is not a consistent pattern

When looking at these groups it is their schoolwork, school in general and friends which caused the most unhappiness, rather than other aspects of their life. It maybe that the underlying issue, such as family poverty or falling behind at school, causes unhappiness rather than the FSM or SEN status as a whole.

Q6) What are the underlying issues which reduce the wellbeing of FSM and SEN children?