Teenagers ‘unhappy by the time they leave school’

A study by think-tank Demos says some pupils feel school is just preparing them for exams. The study urges the government to help school and colleges explore self-belief, perseverance and resilience.

The ‘Mind Over Matter’ report is based on interviews with experts and a survey of 1,000 students, and from this, it is suggested that there is a steady decline in children’s self-belief between 14 and 18.

33% of final-year students are half as likely to feel happy as 14 year olds (60%), it says. These 18 year olds feel as though there is too much pressure on exams rather than learning life skills and preparing for life outside the classroom.

This is understandable as stress from exams can have adverse effects on a students life, with so much focus being on grades and schoolwork, it is hardly a shock to see why these students are feeling down. The report also highlights some gender discrepancies, as only 39% of girls surveyed sad they were happy, apposed to 50% of boys.

There is an increasingly large body of research detailing how non academic factors such as resilience, grit and empathy have a profound impact on young people and their ability to succeed. It calls the adoption and practise of this approach ‘a growth mindset’, claiming the ideas behind it is simple.

‘If we believe our intelligence and abilities are not fixed at birth, but can be developed through effort – if we have a ‘growth mindset’ – then we are more likely to look for challenges to see failures and setbacks as learning opportunities, and ultimately to achieve more personally and professionally,’ it says.

So in practice, those with ‘fixed mindsets’ conclude they will never be able to achieve certain goals when faced with setbacks, big or small.

Report author Louis Reynolds said: ‘Mindsets matter – they can hold us back or propel us forward to achieve more. This insight needs to be applied more systematically in our education system.

‘That’s why we have invested £5m to fund projects that will help young people to develop positive character traits, recognize excellent practice through the character awards and support research into what works best.’

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