Research from the USA has found that the impact of experiencing bullying as a child can have effects reaching into early adulthood. The study of 480 undergraduate students measured exposure to various traumatic experiences, such as bullying, cyberbullying, robbery, sexual assault and violence from birth to 17. Experiencing bullying as a child was the strongest predictor in the study of students reporting symptoms of PTSD. Females who had experienced bullying reported significantly higher levels of depression, anxiety and PTSD than males. There was found to be a correlation between experiencing inter-personal trauma as a child or young adult and the risk of victimisation as an adult. Educational psychologist Dorothy Espelage, who led the study at the University of Illinois, said “Bullying victimization significantly predicted students’ current levels of depression and anxiety — over and above other childhood victimization experiences.”
A recent study published in the International Journal of Diabetes has revealed that teenagers burn 25% less energy when they are resting compared to the energy burnt at age 10 while resting. Researchers at the University of Exeter Medical School found that the number of calories burnt by teenagers at resting point falls dramatically during puberty. At around age 16, calories burnt at rest began to rise again. During puberty, researchers observed a noticeable reduction in exercise among teenagers, particularly girls, which they believed could add to weight gain. They consider their findings to be an explanation of why teenagers gain weight during puberty and believe that the results of the study could help inform the creation of targeted strategies. Vice-president of the Faculty of Public Health, Professor Simon Capewell, commented on young people’s use of personal electronic devices, stating that the bombardment of food marketing to adolescents does not help the situation.
A recent UK study has revealed that despite achieving better grades than boys, girls are less happy than boys on average when at school. 1,500 students from 29 primary and secondary schools in Wales were asked about their experiences at school for the past three years, with the aim to discover differences between how boys and girls view their time at school. Although girls perceived school and staff in a positive light, 25% said that when they were at school they felt worried. Another 24% said they felt they did not belong, compared to 16.5% and 8.8% of boys respectively. As students progressed through their education, these results either remained constant, or became more negative. Both body image and social media activity have been seen to play a large role in the everyday pressures girls face.
Research from Australia has looked at the outcomes of pregnancies amongst girls who take part in virtual infant parenting (VIP). In many countries across the world, the use of automated dolls is used to teach young teens about life with an infant. The aim is to discourage teenage pregnancy, however the research shows that VIP programmes may actually have the opposite effect. The Australian study was the first randomized control trial of the effectiveness of dolls to prevent teenage pregnancy. Over a three year period, 1,267 who took part and 1,567 girls who did not take part in VIP were part of the study. By the age of 20, 8% of those who had taken part and 4% of those who had not were mothers, while 9% of the VIP and 6% of the control group had had at least one abortion. The researchers did not analyse the reasoning behind this failure of the project, however the study author Sally Brinkman said that ‘Anecdotally, a lot of the students really enjoyed the program… There was a lot of positivity around the program, so it didn’t really work in putting the kids off.’
With A-level results day this week in the UK, it’s becoming clear that there is a growing trend in the gap between girls’ and boys’ results and university places. Women outnumber men in going to university. The BBC points out that, as university places are often decided by A-level results, girls out-performing boys at those exams means that the imbalance is not a surprise, especially considering that 55% of pupils sitting A-level exams are female. This year the gap between applications from boys and girls was the widest in recent years in England, Scotland and Wales. The current figures show that in England, women are 36% more likely to apply to university then men. The attainment gap between girls and boys can already be seen at GSCE level and research from Bristol University has found that boys are almost twice as likely to be behind when they first start school. The disparity between men and women in higher education is around 281,000; interestingly, with the exclusion of subjects linked to education and medicine, this number drops to 34,000. It’s also important to note that while women are more likely to go to university, men are still more likely to gain ‘entry to the toughest universities and toughest courses.’
The government has pledged to open 500 free schools before 2020. The Church of England is reportedly aiming to open a quarter of these. This proportion of new schools would maintain the current ratio of one in four free schools in England that are C of E. Over a million children in the UK attend the 4,417 primary and 209 C of E secondary schools in England. Stephen Conway, the Bishop of Ely is quoted as saying that “As the [education] system has fragmented from a dual system to one of multiple providers, we find ourselves as the largest single provider of schools and academies across the country.” Free schools are allowed to be selective based on faith for 50% of their places if they are oversubscribed.
Figures from Pulse, obtained under freedom of information legislation, have been released. Data from 15 mental health trusts in the UK has revealed the number of under 18s, referred for help from child and adolescent mental health services (CAMHS), who are not receiving it. The data has highlighted the lack of treatment that young people and children are receiving for mental health problems. Across England 61% of under 18 year olds referred for help from CAMHS in 2015 did not receive treatment, with a third not even receiving assessment. Within specific Foundations the fall in under 18s receiving treatment from 2013 to 2015 is significant. The Norfolk and Suffolk NHS Foundation Trust had 46% of young people receiving treatment in 2013, compared to 20% in 2015. Similarly, the Leeds and York Partnership NHS Foundation went from 42% to 26% last year. The data shows an increasingly restricted access to CAMHS support for children and young people. Read more here.
The Education Endowment Foundation has commissioned a project that seeks to examine the effect of teaching growth mindset to 10 and 11 year olds in the UK. The term “growth mindset” was coined by American Psychologist Carol Dweck, and is the belief that “intelligence is not a fixed characteristic and can be increased through effort.” It focuses on attainment, self-management and the process of learning from one’s own mistakes. Academic Sherria Hoskins explains “Expectations change neurology; if you have low expectations of a child their brain starts to function worse”. The growing body of research emphasises reducing traditional praise that tells a child they are ‘good at’ something and instead focus on effort and strategy. Opponents to the theory believe that it removes consideration of the larger social and economic situations that may hinder learning. Professor David James argues “It individualises the failure – ‘they couldn’t change the way they think, so that’s why they failed’.” Positive Edge will develop quizzes and videos that will be used by Changing Mindsets to test impact, and teachers will undergo training from psychologists. Pupils who watch the videos will be compared against a control group who do not and the findings will be measured against SATs scores. The study’s results will be published in 2018.
There are a growing number of schools and universities offering dog therapy to stressed-out students and teachers. In the US, retired professor Mary Jalongo and her Indiana-based therapy dog group started their crusade three years ago at her old university. She is now leading a team of therapy dog handlers as they travel from campus to campus to try and lower students’ anxiety levels. For teenagers in the UK, the charity Dogs Helping Kids (DHK) has a similar mission of bringing trained therapy dogs into schools and libraries across the nation to support young people. In Devon, DHK provide an intervention service for teenagers suffering from forms of depression, anxiety and low self-esteem. Their highly trained Support School Dogs have been carefully selected for their calm, quiet and gentle natures, and are trained to work on a one-to-one basis to provide unconditional love and support. Also, more children across the UK will be benefiting from the Kennel Club’s Bark and Read project. The project’s pilot programme at a junior school in Hampshire appeared to produce dramatic results, claiming that “Within six weeks 60 per cent of the children taking part improved their reading age by more than three months.” The UK umbrella organisation, Pets As Therapy, estimates that more than 6,000 children a week benefit from therapy dogs.
Last week Dr John Vallance, principal of highly acclaimed Sydney Grammar School, spoke out against the use of technology in schools. He describes the use of laptops and tablets in class as a ‘scandalous waste of money’ which only benefit giant US tech companies. Dr Vallance is a highly respected educationalist. Born and educated in Australia, he went on to complete his MPhil and PhD at the University of Cambridge where he subsequently taught Classics before returning to Sydney. He believes that the use of technology in class is a major distraction for students, ‘[Teaching is] about interaction ¬between people, about discussion, about conversation.’, Dr Vallance said in an interview with The Australian. While few would argue with his belief that teaching is about social interaction, the notion that technology discourages such interaction is questionable.
Our extensive research for Techknowledge for Schools has shown that while distraction is an issue, learning to deal with it is an important part of students’ learning. Dr Vallance calls for a ban on the use of technology in schools, but it could be argued that since technology is now so integral to children’s lives, learning to deal with its potential for distraction is paramount. Our recent report, Future Skills, demonstrates that using technology in school prepares pupils for future employment and is believed by teachers to build communication skills. Another FK&Y report interviewed over 7,000 students, and found that students who use technology in class are more likely to develop a responsible attitude towards it.
Last year a report from the OECD claimed that investing heavily in school computers and classroom technology does not improve pupils’ performance. The widely publicised research was based on assessment of the PISA tests taken between 2009 and 2012 in 70 countries. While the findings were questioned and schools using technology disagreed with the findings, it has set up an important debate about the advantages and challenges of using technology in schools. Indeed the OECD’s education director, Andreas Schleicher, pointed out that the report’s findings should not be cited as an excuse not to use technology, but rather as a prompt to find more effective ways of integrating and using it in the classroom.
Several teachers and head teachers critiqued the OECD’s report. Former headmaster at Sherborne Preparatory School in Dorset, Peter Tait, wrote in a blog post that technology itself cannot be blamed for its lack of impact. Reflecting our research findings, Tait argued that too often technology is introduced without a clear plan for how it will be used and that the time needed to integrate technology into the curriculum has not been addressed by policy makers and educational experts. Head teacher Karin George of Westfields Junior School in Hampshire argued in a BBC Radio 4 interview that the extensive use of technology at her school contributes to the development of skills such as collaboration, independence and confidence, reflecting our research with teachers. We know from our research that parents often feel unable to regulate their child’s use of technology at home. Children need to learn how to use technology appropriately and schools are in a unique position to help teach this.