Pupils count the minutes until class is over

5th April 1996 at 01:00
Research carried out by Keele University provides the widest analysis so far of pupil attitudes, from how interesting they find lessons to how much television they watch.

Nearly 30,000 children at 200 secondary schools across Britain were given questionnaires last year. The resulting snapshot of opinion among 11 to 16-year-olds reveals a crisis of confidence in the classroom. Many children lose interest as they go through secondary school. By the time they reach their crucial Standard grade year, many are apparently bored by their work and disenchanted with their teachers, and do not want to stay on.

The survey shows that 8 per cent of 11-year-olds in their first year at secondary school admit to playing truant "sometimes or often". The figure steadily rises until age 16 when twice as many pupils admit to truanting. If anything, these figures are an underestimate, as the questionnaires were completed in school time. In primary 7, 65 per cent of pupils say they like school. But by the time they reach S4, the figure falls to 43 per cent.

Asked if they ever count the minutes until the end of lessons, 45 per cent of 11-year-olds admit they do, while by the age of 15 the figure has risen to 66 per cent. Nearly 90 per cent of 11-year-olds say they consider their school a good one, but four years later only 66 per cent would agree.

Overall, however, 91 per cent of pupils in secondary schools say they are usually happy at school, and 79 per cent enjoy being taught. Eighty per cent said they work as hard as they can.

Negative attitudes to school are particularly prevalent among boys. In almost every category, they emerge as less motivated and more prone to bad behaviour.

Classroom disruption and bullying emerge as serious problems. Ninety-two per cent of pupils in S4 complain of work being disrupted, while 22 per cent of 11 to 16-year-olds suffer from bullying. This is one of the few figures which falls as pupils get older, with only 16 per cent in S4 complaining of being bullied.

The report is not encouraging for teachers. Asked if teachers were respected, 57 per cent of the youngest pupils said they were. But only 37 per cent of fourth-year pupils, agreed.

And when it comes to staying on after the age of 16, the figures again point to a substantial minority who are unconvinced about the benefits of education. Nearly four-fifths in S4 thought it was worth while to stay on - meaning that one in five did not see the point.

Many parents, judging by this survey, take little interest in their children's education. One in five pupils said they had no help from their parents, and only 27 per cent said their parents checked their homework at least once a week.

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