One pupil in ten 'becomes hostile to school by 13': Research shows that almost a quarter of 13-year-olds played truant in a year as they grew more disillusioned with the education system

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The Independent Online
ABOUT one in ten children becomes hostile to school in his or her early teens, according to a survey of more than 2,000 pupils carried out by the National Foundation for Educational Research.

The starkest finding is that 23 per cent of 13-year-olds had skipped a lesson or played truant during the past year, compared with less than 9 per cent of 11-year-olds. Eleven-year-olds who had just started at secondary school were more likely to say they were very happy at school: 70 per cent compared to 60.

By contrast, 21 per cent of 13- year-olds said they were not happy - twice the proportion of 11-year- olds. Older children, however, felt less threatened. The proportion saying that they were often or quite often bullied fell from 15 per cent of 11-year-olds to 8 per cent of 13-year-olds, while the 42 per cent of 11-year-olds saying they had been bullied once or twice, fell to 24 per cent of 13-year-olds.

The survey, carried out for the National Commission on Education, found signs of some children switching off. At 11, 62 per cent said they found all or most lessons interesting; by 13, that proportion had slipped to 55 per cent. One in five 13-year-olds said they often counted the minutes to the end of lessons and one in ten said they were bored in all or most lessons.

Almost all the children recognised the value of learning: only 3 per cent thought that lessons and school were a waste of time and 71 per cent expected to stay on in the sixth-form or go to college. Yet one-third of all the teenagers interviewed said that most of the time they did not want to go to school.

Children had clear ideas about why they were there. Virtually every child agreed that school should help them do well at GCSE and that they should learn things which would be useful when they got jobs, whereas only 40 per cent thought school should help them learn how to use their spare time.

But a significant proportion - 15 per cent - doubted that school work would actually help them get a job, even though most of them thought they worked as hard as they could in most lessons.

Pupils rated their own ability highly: 92 per cent thought they were average or above average. Only one in twenty believed teachers thought them below average. But 25 per cent of 13-year- olds thought their teachers were 'fairly easily satisfied' and more than 40 per cent said they never talked to teachers about their work. Five per cent of 13-year-olds said they were not given homework and another 5 per cent said they never did the homework they were given. A further 20 per cent spent less than half an hour on homework.

One-third of the children watched television or videos for four hours or more each day and another half watched for between two and four hours. By contrast, 19 per cent of 13-year-olds said they never or hardly ever read books for fun and 39 per cent took no part in out-of-school or lunchtime activities.

The least flattering finding for teachers is that 15 per cent of the children said they were rarely or never praised when they did their work well and a further one-third said only some teachers praised good work.

Similarly, 15 per cent said they liked hardly any or none of their teachers, with another 46 per cent of 13-year-olds saying they only liked some of them.

What do students think about school? National Foundation For Educational Research, The Mere, Upton Park, Slough SL1 2DQ; pounds 8.

(Photograph omitted)

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