English pupils are among the unhappiest in the world, survey finds

Children in England are unhappier at school than those in almost every other country, an international survey has found.

The Good Childhood Report 2015 examined how happy 10- and 12-year-old children are in 15 developed and developing countries. It found that children in England are less content that children in 11 other countries, including Uganda, Ethiopia and Algeria.

The only places where schoolchildren are less happy than in England are Germany, South Korea and Estonia, according to the study produced by the Children’s Society.

And unhappiness only increases as children move from primary to secondary school. Although 34 per cent of Year 6 pupils said that they liked going to school, the proportion almost halved – to 18 per cent – by the time they reached Year 8.

A number of factors contributed to this level of unhappiness. In particular, children’s school experience was coloured by their relationships at school. English pupils felt excluded by their classmates more often in the last month than pupils in any other country, the report says.

England also ranked 14th out of 15 countries in terms of pupils’ sense that they were treated fairly by their teachers and was also at number 14 in terms of pupils’ satisfaction with their teachers.

English pupils were similarly unhappy with what they were learning at school, and the grades they were being given for it. And they ranked in the bottom third of countries for their overall enjoyment of school.

Kevin Courtney, deputy general secretary of the NUT teaching union, said that he was very concerned by the findings. “There needs to be the time devoted in the curriculum to preventing bullying through challenging negative attitudes,” he said. “The lessons learned make a significant difference to pupils’ attitudes, not only during their school career but throughout their adult life as well.”

The Children’s Society offered various recommendations for improving the mental health of English schoolchildren.

It suggested that some of the additional £1.25 billion of government funding allocated to child and adolescent mental health services over the next five years could be spent on promoting children’s well-being, rather than on simply dealing with mental health problems as they occur.

It also recommended that the government should make counselling in schools part of statutory provision.

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