In recent years, the mental wellbeing of children and young adults has been an area of increasing concern, compounded by the onset of the global pandemic and subsequent lockdowns and school closures.
Our Pupil Learning Experience and Wellbeing Report summarises the pupil experiences from 45,000+ students across 165 schools between May and July in 2021 to help us understand more about how our pupils feel. With a focus on providing a high-level summary of some of the learnings about:
- Overall health and emotional wellbeing
- Pupil workload
In this series of blogs, we’ll be covering our key findings from the report, with this first post focusing on overall health and emotional pupil wellbeing.
How Do Students Feel Overall?
Previous research from Public Health England and NAHT has demonstrated that “pupils with better health and wellbeing are likely to achieve better academically.” It is, therefore, no surprise that understanding pupil wellbeing and how to support it is a high priority for everyone in education.
Our review found that overall, pupils are pleased with their schooling, which is reassuring generally but especially considering COVID-19. For example, 65% of pupils are happy to be studying at their school!
Yet on the other hand, one in ten are not. In addition to this, when we asked our respondents “Overall, how do you feel lately?” fewer than half of students (47%) reported that they have been feeling well, with 23% pupils saying overall they have not felt very well or not felt well at all.
What appears to be affecting pupil wellbeing? Our findings uncovered the following issues which appeared to affect and lower pupil’s overall wellbeing:
- Sleep quality
Is Stress Affecting Pupil Wellbeing?
Almost half of pupils (46%) report that they often felt stressed, whilst just a quarter (27%) report feeling stressed rarely or never.
According to pupil comments, the major factor affecting stress appeared to be school-related stressors including exams, mocks, homework and teachers. Surprisingly, COVID/lockdown was only mentioned 9 times across all 258 comments collected on the issue.
Out of the 38% of comments citing school as a factor of their stress, the reasons they gave included:
“As there is a lot of work and homework that I have to complete with a short space of time.”
“School has really high expectations for the students. As they should but homework can be very stressful.”
Are Sleep Issues Causing Students to Suffer?
Four in ten pupils report that they have slept well lately, and three in ten pupils report that they have slept badly.
Pupil comments mention a range of factors, from school-related stress and ongoing issues with sleep to short term disruptions affecting them at the time of the survey. However, for some pupils, sleeping badly is less of a concern.
The largest factor which affected pupils' sleep in our report was family and home-related issues, which accounted for 10% of comments related to sleep quality. When talking about issues related to family relationships and home conditions pupils said the following:
“We have building work at home so it is very dusty and messy.”
“My siblings keep me up at night”
8% of pupils stated school-related issues as the reason they don’t sleep well. With some pupils commenting, “I find it hard to sleep due to stress from school.” or “School is so stressful and when you are alone in your room at night, your whole existence goes through your head and you overthink even little things. I have had nights where I have cried myself to sleep”
How Does Overworking Affect Students?
When asked 'How often have you felt overworked lately?', more pupils stated feel overworked than not; 43% state that they feel overworked quite or very often, whilst only 3 in 10 (28%) state they feel overworked rarely or never.
Not surprisingly, there is a notable difference in the proportion of students feeling overworked based on how many hours of homework they do per day. For those doing more than 2 hours, 55% feel overworked; for those doing less than 2 hours, the proportion is 41%.
The difference is larger when comparing between pupils with varying levels of extra responsibility. Less than one third (30%) of pupils with no extra responsibilities outside of school feel overworked; this rises to two (65%) among pupils with a lot of extra responsibilities.
What Can Your Trust Learn From Edurio’s Insights?
Overall, our report provides an insight for educators into how children in England have been feeling during an intense period of COVID-19 and national restrictions. The pandemic brought the importance of mental health and wellbeing to the forefront of thinking and provides us with the opportunity to understand where students may need the most support.
Within our report, we also provide an understanding of how these findings compare to others, allowing school leaders to see which issues may have been exacerbated by the pandemic. For example, former Head of Research at Ofsted, Daniel Muijs compared the results to a similar survey, the Big Ask’ report from Children’s Commissioner, 2021 which also found 1 in 5 respondents reported mental health concerns. Muijs added that the results from our survey were concerning as they mean in a classroom of 25 up to 5 pupils are not feeling well.
The report is not a reason for despair among school leaders. Muijs reflects that the emphasis in pupil comments on school-related factors may be due to the questionnaire relating primarily to school and being completed within a school context. Muijs’ final comment goes on to remark that pastoral support is well-established, and wellbeing is a key concern in most schools, as witnessed by the interest in this survey from them. On the other hand, the report does also include evidence of increased stress during key moments in the school life, suggesting there are issues school leaders may be able to anticipate as pupils move through the school system.
Get a free copy of our Pupil Learning Experience and Wellbeing Review report by filling out the form below.