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Are UK children amongst the unhappiest in the world?

Report from The Children's Society shows England ranks 14 out of 15 in terms of overall life satisfaction

Posted by Stephanie Broad | August 25, 2015 | Health & wellbeing

The fourth annual Good Childhood Report from The Children’s Society has revealed that children in England have the second-lowest overall life satisfaction. The society has studied the subjective wellbeing of children in partnership with the University of York, with 53,000 children between eight and 12 taking part. 

The highest overall satisfaction was found in Romania (with a score of 9.5), followed by Columbia. England was ranked 14 out of 15, with a score of 8.4. 

In the report, The Children’s Society defines wellbeing as made up of components including ‘hedonic’ (subjective wellbeing), ‘cognitive’ (life satisfaction), ‘eudaimonic’ (psychological wellbeing) and ‘affective’ (positive and negative influences). 

Bullying appears to be a main area of concern for children in the study, with the keyword appearing 2,311 times in responses – the third most popular keyword after ‘friends’ and ‘family’. ‘School’ was the sixth most popular keyword, with 1,582 mentions, indicating that a child’s education affects their wellbeing. 

Children's Society chief executive Matthew Reed told the BBC that schools in England need to make counselling available for all children: "It's already available in Wales, it's already in Northern Ireland - a legal responsibility for schools so all children do get the support they need." 

The PSHE Association says: “These findings show the urgent need for Government to take action to improve pupil wellbeing by making PSHE education statutory on the school curriculum, and for schools to invest time and staff training to ensure effective teaching. PSHE education is the subject through which pupils learn about issues like bullying, body image and managing their mental health and wellbeing – yet according to Ofsted PSHE provision is sub-standard in 40% of schools.

“The Education Select Committee strongly recommended making PSHE statutory to improve provision nationally, and we call on Government to take action and respond positively to ensure pupils get the education they need to keep themselves physically and emotionally safe and well.” 

Commenting on The Good Childhood Report 2015, Russell Hobby, general secretary of school leaders' union NAHT said: “this report says that children in England have relatively low levels of happiness, which should be a cause for concern for everyone with a stake in children’s welfare. 

“Our May 2015 survey of school leaders highlighted the lengths they go to to improve children’s wellbeing, including providing a range of support that was once offered by local services that have seen their budgets slashed. Our members estimated that support totalled £43.5m last year.” 

“We’ve continually called for PSHE to be mandatory in schools, equipping children with vital skills for life. We believe this would be a significant step towards a happier school life for children and yet the government stubbornly refuses to budge. Their attitude to PSHE was recently described as ‘feeble’ by the Education Select Committee. Schools play a major role in promoting the spiritual, moral, cultural, mental and physical development of pupils, crucial to overall happiness. They should be given all the help and support they need.”    

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