Under 1 in 3 pupils turn to teachers when worried

School leaders need to address loneliness, sleeplessness and stress among students, finds report

Catherine Lough

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Less than a third of pupils choose to speak with their teacher when they are feeling sad or worried, according to research published today.

Just 29 per cent of pupils said they spoke to a teacher when feeling "sad or worried" while nearly half – 48 per cent – chose to speak with a parent.

Research based on surveys of more than 45,000 pupils across 165 primary, secondary and all-through schools, finds that less than half of pupils – 41 per cent – felt they had an adult at school who they can trust and talk to if they are feeling worried.

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The report from education survey company Edurio says some pupils said they had personal reasons for not wishing to share their worries, while others gave school-related reasons.

For instance, one pupil commented: "I used to [tell teachers my worries] but I've heard teachers talking about students' problems behind their backs and it's made me lose my trust with teachers".

"Most teachers will be too busy, so I don't bother them," another said.

Higher stress in 'outstanding' schools

The Edurio report also found higher rates of stress among pupils at schools rated "outstanding", with 48 per cent of pupils at such schools reporting they had felt stressed lately, compared with 44 per cent in "good" schools and 45 per cent in schools rated "requires improvement".

Pupils at "outstanding" schools also reported lower levels of wellbeing, with 43 per cent saying they had felt "well" lately compared with 48 per cent in RI schools.

Overall, nearly half of pupils said they had often felt stressed lately (46 per cent).

The proportion of pupils who said they felt overworked peaked in Year 11, the final year of GCSEs, with 66 per cent reporting they were overworked.

Only a third of pupils in their final year of GCSEs reported feeling well, while in both Year 11 and Year 13 – the final year of GCSEs and A levels – two-fifths slept badly.

Reported stress levels rose throughout pupils' time in secondary school. In Year 7, 43 per cent reported feeling stressed lately but this climbed to 69 per cent by the end of Year 13.

And nearly a quarter of pupils – 24 per cent – said they had felt lonely lately.

Daniel Muijs, co-author of the report and former deputy director at Ofsted, said: “The report highlights many key areas that warrant further discussion – not just within the education sector – but also within society.

"A substantial number of children are not happy and many experience sleep problems and stress.

"Loneliness is increasing and, as children move through education, these negative factors simply get worse.

"As education leaders, we need to ask ourselves difficult questions about how we can help reduce the pressure of GCSEs and A Levels; how we can ensure girls as well as boys flourish; and what we can do to ensure our ‘outstanding’ schools do not exert excessive pressure on children.”

Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said teachers and leaders were concerned about the wellbeing of pupils and wanted to help address this issue.

He said: "I hope this report can be of use to teachers, support staff and school and trust leaders as they continue supporting children and young people through this exceptional period and beyond.”

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author bio

Catherine Lough

Catherine Lough is a reporter at Tes.

Find me on Twitter @CathImogenLough

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