Class of '04 fearful and consumed by worries

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 taken painkillers.

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 reason.

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.

Tony Halpin
22 April 2005

http://www.timesonline.co.uk/article/0,,2-1579864,00.html

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