What Does Research Say About Children’s Wellbeing?

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Children's Wellbeing


Ross Morrison McGill founded @TeacherToolkit in 2010, and today, he is one of the 'most followed educators'on social media in the world. In 2015, he was nominated as one of the '500 Most Influential People in Britain' by The Sunday Times as a result of...
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What is the link between wellbeing, performance and mental health?

This study, the largest of its kind ever conducted in the UK, aims to add to that body of evidence. It is based on analysis of data from more than 850,000 students aged 7–14 in England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales who were assessed over two years by GL Assessment’s psychometric measure, Pupil Attitudes to Self and School (PASS).

Does Wellbeing Play A Role In Performance?

In the last few years, educators and policymakers have taken an increasing interest in the wellbeing of young people. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development1 (OECD) began to measure student wellbeing in its worldwide student assessments a few years ago, prompted in part by the realisation that student satisfaction, or the lack of it, plays a key role in academic performance.

Governments have devoted more resources to gauging youngsters’ wellbeing – not only because happy children tend to make successful students but also because happy children stand more of a chance of becoming contented and productive citizens than unhappy ones. Official awareness has only increased since studies have suggested that student wellbeing in the UK is a matter of some concern.

How can we improve mental health?

A huge number of students enjoy school, but this research highlights that significant numbers are struggling.

We live and work in a period where children’s mental health is reaching record levels, and if we not only want to provide them with a good education, we need significant funding from Government in order to support their needs at a sophisticated level. This cannot be achieved when specialist support is unaffordable, teacher salaries are frozen and an increasing numbers of qualified teachers are leaving the profession. (Ross Morrison McGill)


In May 2018, I chaired a webinar for GL Assessment, discussing the findings of the Children’s Wellbeing: Pupil Attitudes to Self and School Report 2018. I was joined by Sean Jordan from Greenwood Academy in Birmingham and Hilary Fine from GL Assessment.

Coming from a disadvantaged area brings with it many complex social and emotional issues. We try to offer support where children may not have the support needed.”

We use the PASS attitudes survey – a 20-minute psychometric tool designed to highlight students’ feelings about themselves as learners and their feelings about school – to focus on what work is to be done with the young person and offer a good indication about where our students’ barriers might lie. (Sean Jordan, Greenwood Academy)

Key Questions

  1. This is a huge survey – 850,000 students. Were you surprised by the findings?
  2. What is the link between wellbeing and performance and mental health?
  3. Of all the factors in your PASS survey, which ones could most indicate that a child’s wellbeing is at risk?
  4. Do you think the signs that all is not well are easy to miss?
  5. Were there any significant gender differences in the responses?
  6. I understand there was little variation between schools with many and few FSM pupils, apart from in a couple of instances. Can you explain what they were and what in your view would explain the difference?
  7. How do you at Greenwood Academy use data to help understand where a pupil’s barriers to learning might lie?
  8. Exam season is always stressful, but this year the new more rigorous GCSEs are likely to make life especially tough for students. Have you been able to use assessment to pinpoint the students that are most likely to ‘feel the pressure’ and have you any examples of specific interventions that you’ve put in place?
  9. Aside from the work you do around exams, what are the types of mental health and wellbeing campaigns and initiatives that you run at your school?
  10. How important is it to engage parents in any conversations around mental health and wellbeing?

As this paper has demonstrated, a significant minority of students in all four corners of the UK have negative feelings towards school and struggle with issues like self-regard and their perceived capabilities as learners.

The correct use of assessment data can give schools insight into pupils’ mindsets and help identify those who are troubled and whose wellbeing is likely to be at risk.

Download the research
















You can download the full research paper here.

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