A recent survey from the Prince’s Trust makes sad reading. Interviews with 2,136 young people in the UK aged 16-24, indicates that 1 in 10 feel they cannot cope with day-to-day life. ‘Neets’, those not in work, education or training are more than twice as likely to feel that way with 52% saying they often or always feel depressed. The survey also found that nearly a quarter of young people, 22%, felt that they did not have anyone they could talk to about their problems. The mental health of children and young people has long been a concern, with organisations such as the BACP (British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy) carrying out several studies that have looked at this. The Nuffield Foundation has carried out a substantive review of many aspects of the mental wellbeing of young people, with results published here. Colleagues and I at the University of Cambridge carried out research for the Nuffield Foundation that looked at the wellbeing of children in school at the time of transition from Primary to Secondary school, and results were published in the book ‘The Supportive School’ (2011). The Nuffield Foundation’s research indicated that in fact there had been no increase in the level of teenage mental health between 2009 and 2004. It may be however that the current recession and poor work prospects for young people are reversing this trend.
The same survey from the Prince’s Trust links a lack of structure at home when young people were growing up with poor grades at school. ‘Lack of structure’ included no set meal times or set bed time, the latter being claimed by a quarter of young people, 27%. Lack of qualifications clearly has an impact on the way young people feel about their job prospects. According to the survey, a third of those interviewed with lower qualifications claimed to ‘always’ or ‘often’ feel rejected, compared to 22% of young people overall.
Schools can clearly play a large part in helping young people to feel included and to help them have a sense of structure. Our experience over the last eighteen months working with schools for the Tablets for Schools initiative has shown us just how much schools are doing to encourage inclusion, and to help children learn about structure and routine. Preparing children for the skills they need to become employable by facilitating teaching and learning through one-to-one digital devices can help all young people to feel they are part of the fast growing digital world.