Pupil Attitudes to Self and School

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Why and how do attitudes to learning aid learning, and what evidence supports improvement and academic performance?

Last week, I led a webinar for GL Assessment to sift through Pupil Attitudes to Self and School; this research one of the largest of its kind, seeks to identify when student attitudes start to alter, what implications that has for their education and what interventions can be implemented if necessary.

Teenage hormones ‘turn pupils off school for three years’ ~ BBC news.

Obviously, this has significant implications for teachers. According to researchers, up to 30 per cent of attainment is influenced by attitude, which of course also has significant implications for student well-being, behaviour and later career success. And, if the barriers to learning are attitudinal rather than curricular, then the interventions required will be different.

 The study, which was based on data from more than 31,000 children across England and Wales, found a decline in positive attitudes to schools, teachers and attendance from Year 7 onwards. 

The factors behind the attitudes:

Young peoples’ attitudes to school and to their own capabilities as learners have been broken down into a number of distinct factors:

  • Feelings about school
  • Attitude to teachers
  • Attitude to attendance
  • Confidence with challenging tasks
  • Self-regard as a learner
  • Response to curriculum demands
  • General work ethic
  • How prepared for learning they feel they are
  • How positive they feel about their specific capabilities as a learner.

GL Assessment PASS Pupils Attitudes to Self and School

Click to download the report

Students’ attitudes towards secondary school decline for several years. ~ TES.

What the data did not show?

The survey is also notable for what it did not find. The data suggest, for instance, that there is no noticeable gender variation in attitudes to learning and schools. Nor is there any perceived difference among regions.

Click to enlarge


 Transition can be a major barrier to learning for pupils from disadvantaged backgrounds and those who are more emotionally vulnerable or have mental health issues.” ~ John Dunford


Reading through the details of this report, I have the following questions to ask in response to the research:

  1. How important our student attitudes to learning and school?
  2. Do they really affect performance?
  3. Should schools take the status seriously?
  4. How does self regard manifest itself in the classroom?
  5. What what is the likely consequences be?
  6. Is it surprising that negative attitudes persist so long after transition from primary to secondary school?
  7. Do you any student attitudes improve over time?
  8. How easy is it for schools to change students’ less positive perceptions?
  9. What could and should schools do about those perceptions?
  10. What does the research tell us about fragile learners? Pupil premium students?


In this webinar, GL Assessment’s Jonathan Thomson provides insight – with @TeacherToolkit interviewing – into the reasons why pupil attitudes towards self and school continue to decline after the crucial transition period and what initiatives teachers can employ to address them. It was recorded on 12th October 2016:


Our attitudes are formed by and affect how we feel, what we do and how we think. In school, a pupil’s attitudes to learning can influence their whole experience of education and have significant effects on their overall levels of attainment, engagement and well-being.


GL Assessment PASS Pupils Attitudes to Self and SchoolYou can download a free copy of GL AssessmentPupil Attitudes to Self and School is available here.







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