Figure on being depressed

10th February 2006 at 00:00
We all make mistakes, and, to be fair, perhaps I was a bit rough on the poor depleted staff of the Learning and Skills Council last week for pointing out their bizarre pay figures.

After all, surely the statistics which suggest lecturers in one college were earning an average of more than pound;51,000 a year are in little danger of being taken too seriously.

You might, though, think that this would have made the funding quango for colleges a little sheepish about the possibility of issuing any more magic numbers.

This week, it seems the LSC has gone beyond trying to work out what is going on in its own domain and has decided to have a go at quantifying the psychological well-being of the parents of teenagers.

Findings from "research" for the LSC purport to show that a third of parents of teenagers who fail to take up education or training at 16 suffer "one of the common symptoms of stress or depression".

The LSC has also been able to deduce that this figure increased to "nearly four in 10" if the child concerned had left school without the "minimum level of qualifications needed to succeed in life" which, we are told, is at least five GCSEs at grades A*-C or their equivalent.

The blurb from the LSC's public relations consultants goes on to say that one in five parents experienced "anxiety" and 14 per cent reported feeling "helplessness".

Not wishing to leave it there, the LSC then helps us with its medical opinion. Five per cent of these parents, we are told, went through a period of depression, which was "triggered" by their offspring failing to do the right thing after leaving school.

How the LSC knows these parents suffered from "depression", as opposed to simply feeling a bit miffed, is not made clear, although I suspect the condition may have been largely self-diagnosed.

Parents of teenagers who dropped out of education at 16 were asked whether they agreed with a number of statements, such as: "I worry that my child will not be able to live the life they hoped for"; "I worry that my child may get involved in drugs" and "I worry that my child may experience an unwanted pregnancy". In other words, a list of the concerns which, presumably, are on the minds of all parents at some stage, even if little Johnnie is tipped for Oxbridge.

And how does the 5 per cent of parents with depression compare with the figure for those with children who stay in education?

Unaccountably, this question was not asked by the LSC researchers.

I'm told "that's not the purpose of this piece of work".


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