In this blog post, we'll delve into the five most significant changes in pupil wellbeing since 2020/21, exploring the trends trusts and schools should be aware of to create a supportive environment for their pupils. The past few years have been marked by unprecedented challenges that have left a lasting impact on the happiness and overall wellbeing of pupils. 

A 2023 COSMO study found that over a third of young people said that the pandemic still negatively impacts their education, and 31% said that it still negatively affects their mental wellbeing. Further, a 2023 study by researchers at the University of Oxford found that pupils who went through the pandemic were more likely to experience worsening overall wellbeing, increased depression, and social, emotional and behavioural difficulties. 

  1. Declining Happiness at School

The most notable shift in pupil wellbeing is the decline in pupils' happiness to be studying at their school. In 2020/21, 65% of pupils said they were happy, a number that has since decreased by 15% to 50% in 2022/23. In 2022/23, 17% of pupils said they were unhappy to be studying at their school.

How happy are you to be studying at this school?

2. Deteriorating Overall Wellbeing

The data shows that pupil wellbeing has worsened each year since the survey began. The proportion of pupils reporting feeling well has decreased by 9% from 47% in 2020/21. In 2022/23, just 38% of pupils reported feeling well physically and mentally, and 27% reported feeling not very well or not well at all.

Overall, how well do you feel lately, physically and mentally?

3. Rising Concerns of Overworking

The proportion of pupils who often feel overworked has increased steadily over the past three years, with an overall increase of 8% since 2020/21, when 43% felt overworked. In 2022/23, half of pupils (51%) reported feeling overworked often. Significantly, of these 51%, half of pupils felt overworked very often. A further 29% felt overworked sometimes. Only one in five (19%) reported feeling overworked rarely or never.

How often have you felt overworked lately?

4. Erosion of Trust in Adults at School

A pivotal element in fostering pupil wellbeing is the presence of trusted adults within the school community. However, the data indicates a decline in pupils' perception of frequently having a trustworthy adult to confide in. In 2020/21, 41% of pupils felt they often had an adult at school they could trust and talk to, a number that has decreased by 8% to 33% in 2022/23.

If something worries you, how often do you have an adult at school whom you trust and could talk to?

5. Sleep Disruptions

In terms of physical wellbeing, the proportion of pupils reporting that they slept well lately has decreased by 7% since 2020/21. In 2022/23 over one third (36%) of pupils said they have slept well lately. However, equally many (36%) said they have not slept well lately.

How well do you sleep lately?

These are worrisome trends, but…

These trends should not make us despondent. This data should motivate us to look for solutions, many of which already exist. Britain Get Talking provides a simple but effective resource for getting pupils to open up about what's going on. The YoungMinds website provides a wealth of information on mental health for young people. The Mental Health Foundation offers a range of resources and support for pupils, parents, and educators. The Department of Education has also published guidance on how schools can promote wellbeing.

What's next?

If you are interested in having a closer look at pupil wellbeing and want to understand how it impacts pupils' educational experience:

  • Run a Pupil Learning Experience and Wellbeing Survey to understand how pupils are feeling in your trust or school. Reach out to us for a demo.
  • Read the Pupil Wellbeing in Schools 2023 report to learn more about differences in wellbeing across schools with different Ofsted ratings and which pupil groups have the lowest wellbeing scores.
  • Join us for a webinar on January 16 2023, where we’ll discuss our findings in-depth and look at policy recommendations and interventions with Roisin McEvoy, a guest speaker from Anna Freud.

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