New research published today by the World Health Organisation (WHO) tells us that 74% of 15-year old girls in England feel pressured by school work, a figure amongst the highest in the developed world. Germany, that great and innovative economic powerhouse, can boast a figure of half of that. This data is stark, and it is a problem for each and every one of us involved in education. Indeed, this data would be shocking if it wasn’t part of a trend we’ve observed in England over a number of years now.
The OECD’s ‘That’s Life’ (2016) survey found that pupils in the UK were in the bottom third of all children in the developed world when it came to their life satisfaction – with performance expectations of the schools’ system being a big contributing factor. And the Children’s Society’s annual Good Childhood index has been telling us for years that ‘school’ is amongst the three areas of greatest dissatisfaction in children’s lives (the others being appearance and concern about the future). Be under no doubt, this picture has a direct correlation with our high stakes testing and accountability culture, which some leaders gallantly protect their staff and children from as far as possible, whilst a minority – eager to play the numbers game and be ‘top of the tree’ – allow to pervade their institutions.