Class of '04 fearful and consumed
A generation of fearful schoolchildren, worried
about their weight, health, bullying and safety on the streets, was
revealed in a study published Friday.
More than a third of girls aged 10 and 11 admitted that they were
sometimes afraid of going to primary school because of bullying. A
quarter of primary pupils said that they had been bullied often or
daily in the past month.
Nearly 60 per cent of girls aged 14 and 15 were unhappy with their
weight, as were more than half of 12 and 13-year-olds. Between a
quarter and a third of boys said that they wanted to be slimmer.
Half of older teenage girls and nearly a third of boys reported
taking painkillers at least once in the previous week. A third of
girls and a quarter of boys aged 12 and 13 said that they had also
The survey of more than 40,000 children aged 10 to
15 at 452 schools found that one in four was anxious about being on
the streets after dark, describing security in their neighbourhoods
as poor or very poor. A quarter of older boys and 18 per cent of
girls said that they were certain or fairly sure that their friends
carried weapons for protection when going out.
The Young People in 2004 report was produced by the Schools Health
Education Unit in Exeter, which has conducted surveys of children
since 1986. Dr David Regis, the report’s research manager, said that
bullying had shown no real decline despite heightened awareness of
the problem in schools. “The proportion of young people who report
being afraid to go to school because of bullying has been absolutely
flat since we started these surveys. It is disappointing,” he said.
Pupils reported that they had been teased and called nasty names by
other children, been forced to hand over money, mobile phones and
other belongings and been “ganged up on” or threatened for no
The survey found that three out of ten primary-age
pupils worried about family problems at home. A quarter of 14 and
15-year-old girls were concerned about their health and half said
that they worried about their appearance.
Up to 60 per cent of older pupils said that they were fairly sure or
certain that they knew somebody who took drugs. A quarter of
15-year-olds said that they had tried cannabis.
A familiarity with alcohol, even among the youngest pupils, also
emerged. One in ten primary-age children, rising to a quarter of
boys, said that they had drunk alcohol in the past seven days, with
some claiming to have consumed spirits such as whisky or vodka. A
quarter of 13-year-olds and up to 45 per cent of pupils in Year 10
said that they had also had an alcoholic drink in the past week.
Many appeared to have parental consent. Most “drinkers” said that
they drank at home and up to half said that their parents always
knew about it.
The report said that parents often argued that
they were teaching children how to drink responsibly.
Concerns about their weight prompted many teenage girls to skip
breakfast or lunch. One in five older girls said that they had not
eaten lunch the previous day, while 17 per cent said that they had
not had breakfast before coming to school.
22 April 2005