Pupils become less happy and confident as they progress through school, poll finds

Pupils lose confidence and feel less happy and supported as they progress through secondary school, a poll has found.

The study from the Demos thinktank reveals that Year 9 pupils are twice as likely to feel happy (60 per cent) than 18-year-olds (33 per cent).

As they progress in their education, pupils also become less likely to believe that their teachers expect them to succeed in life.

According to the poll of 1,000 students, 13 per cent of pupils in their final year of schooling believe their teachers doubt they will be successful, compared with just 5 per cent of 14-year-olds. Meanwhile, nearly 70 per cent of 18-year-olds feel like a failure if they do not succeed at a task, compared with 46 per cent of Year 9s.

The report, entitled Mind over Matter, reveals that nearly a third (31 per cent) of final-year students believe their school is focused only on preparing them to succeed in exams, rather than in life. The survey finds that 18-year-olds are three times more likely to feel this way than students who are four years younger.

The report, supported by youth charity Big Change, recommends instilling “growth mindsets” to help improve education outcomes.

Writing for US publication Education Week, Professor Carol Dweck recently warned that some teachers took a “fixed mindset” approach to their own teaching abilities and to the abilities of their pupils. Professor Dweck is the respected academic behind the theory that an individual’s learning is shaped by whether they believe their intelligence is fixed or can be changed.

Louis Reynold, author of the Mind over Matter report, said: “As the evidence base continues to build, it’s time to act to ensure that all young people, including those from disadvantaged backgrounds, have the opportunity to develop mindsets for growth, both inside and outside of education.”

The authors of the report have also suggested exploring whether growth-mindset methods could be worked into initial teacher training and CPD.

Sam Branson, founder of Big Change, said: “Growth mindset is not a simple switch, but is a shift in the culture and support around young people. We all have a role to play in helping them to achieve this, from schools and teachers to parents, the media, businesses and role models.”

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