Pupils suffer from 'warped' body image, teachers warn

In a survey of teachers, 93 per cent said that they taught pupils affected by eating disorders

Adi Bloom

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Almost all teachers say that their pupils are affected by concerns about body image, a survey from the NUT teachers’ union suggests.

As a result of these concerns, many pupils are succumbing to eating disorders or opting out of PE lessons, teachers told the union.

One teacher said: “Social media is king at the moment, and they live their lives by what they see on it.”

The union surveyed 492 secondary teachers about their pupils’ attitudes to body image. Almost all – 98 per cent – said that some of their pupils were affected by worries about how they look.

More than a third – 38 per cent – said this was the case for nearly all pupils, and half – 50 per cent – said that many were affected.

Ninety-three per cent of teachers said that some of their pupils were affected by eating disorders. “Perception of what a normal body type is has been warped,” one teacher wrote.

Meanwhile, 82 per cent of teachers reported that some of their pupils were opting out of physical activities, such as swimming. A quarter – 25 per cent – said that this was true of many of their pupils.

Breaking down stereotypes

The vast majority of teachers – 98 per cent – said that their pupils were affected by societal pressure to look a certain way. And 97 per cent said that some of their pupils were affected by sexist or stereotyped comments.

Nearly two-thirds – 64 per cent – of teachers said that they thought girls were affected more strongly by body image than boys.

Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the NUT, said: “This snap-shot survey identifies the work we need to do to help young people recognise that we come in all shapes, sizes and ages, and to break down the stereotypes about appearances which flow from sexism and racism.”

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Adi Bloom

Adi Bloom is Tes comment editor

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