08 SES 04, Opportunities and Challenges: Working for inclusion and wellbeing in education
Interest in young people’s wellbeing has been growing in recent years as international comparison studies, such as the influential UNICEF survey highlighting the influence of poverty on children’s wellbeing in rich countries (United Nations Children's Fund, 2007) and the Children’s Worlds project (see The Children’s Society, 2015), have started to provide benchmark data. The picture for the UK is particularly concerning. The UK was ranked bottom of the 21 participating industrialised nations in the original UNICEF study, and whilst the ranking rose to 16th out of 29 ‘rich’ nations in a follow-up study (UNICEF Office of Research, 2013) more recent research commissioned by the Children’s Society, drawing on a comparative study of 15 diverse countries across four continents, found children in England to have low levels of subjective wellbeing compared to those in the other participating countries, ranking 14th for life satisfaction and 11th for both recent feelings of happiness, and feeling positive about the future (The Children’s Society, 2015). Similarly the recent Generation Z global citizenship survey ranked the UK second bottom of 20 nations on mental wellbeing (Broadbent, Gougoulis, Lui, Pota, & Simons, 2017). Furthermore, it is clear that wellbeing varies according to demographic group. The most recent of the highly influential annual Good Childhood Report (2017), which reports findings from research commissioned by the Children’s Society and is based on surveys of young people in the UK over the last ten years, has clearly demonstrated gender and ethnic group differences, with girls and BME students, dependent on wellbeing indicator, generally exhibiting lower levers of wellbeing. In addition disadvantages associated with parent-child relationships, family / household factors, material factors and neighbourhood factors also individually and cumulatively impact negatively on wellbeing.
Not only is the pursuit of wellbeing important in its own right given its eudaimonic (self-actualising or functioning well) as well as hedonic (feeling well) nature (Deci & Ryan, 2008), but wellbeing is also associated with concurrent and future academic achievement (Gutman & Vorhaus, 2012). Given this backdrop, SUPER, the school-university partnership for educational research, which is a long-standing network of schools that research collaboratively with the Faculty of Education in Cambridge, decided to focus on student wellbeing for their most recent piece of collaborative research and this project forms the focus of the current paper. The project is now in its second year of an envisaged 3 year timespan and is working towards answering an overarching research question of ‘How do we promote character, resilience & wellbeing in an educational climate of outcome accountability?’. This question has been formulated in the context of the climate of accountability that exists in the English educational system (see Ball, 1993). In this paper we focus on the wellbeing aspect and the first phase of the project, which has been conducted to establish young people’s perceptions of their wellbeing, both in terms of how much wellbeing they felt and factors that supported or hindered this, in the partnership schools. Given recent policy imperatives and government financial support to raise the attainment of disadvantaged pupils (‘pupil premium’ see https://www.gov.uk/guidance/pupil-premium-information-for-schools-and-alternative-provision-settings), the wellbeing of this particular group of students was of interest but given the ethnic and gender differences established in the literature, these were also explored. This phase will in due course inform a further phase of research which will involve putting interventions in place to support the wellbeing of students, with specific interventions for those seem to be most at risk of experiencing low levels of wellbeing. Through this approach we hope to engender a more inclusive environment for young people in SUPER schools.
The data presented comes from the first phase of the larger project described above. This phase comprises a two-stage sequential mixed methods study (Tashakkori & Teddlie, 1998). The first stage was a survey of young people’s wellbeing to establish perceptions of levels of wellbeing across the partnership schools. The second stage, which is nearly completed entails interviews with a sample of young people in each school to explore further aspects of wellbeing and to elicit views on factors that supported or hindered their wellbeing. The survey entailed students in Years 3 & 6 in the 6 participating primary schools (N=402), and in Years 8, 10 and 12 in the 8 participating secondary schools (N=1165) completing an online questionnaire ‘How I Feel About Myself in School’, an instrument the first author and coordinator of the SUPER partnership had developed in previous research and had demonstrated robust psychometric properties (McLellan & Steward, 2015). A minimum of two group interviews (of three to four pupils) for each year group has been conducted in the majority of the SUPER schools by the Teacher Research Lead (the TRL – the link person in each school for SUPER). Thus approximately 150 young people across the network have been consulted. The interview guide was developed collaboratively by the TRL group, who meet twice termly together with the two Faculty members involved in SUPER, and aimed to build on findings from the survey and explore ideas young people had about how their wellbeing could be enhanced in school. These are now largely transcribed and a summary document has been completed for each interview. The quantitative data from the survey has been analysed. An initial exploratory analysis was conducted to clean the data and examine general trends. As there was no guarantee the factor structure from previous studies would hold and given the exploratory nature, an exploratory factor analysis was conducted to establish wellbeing dimensions and scales were subsequently generated. A cluster analysis was then conducted to establish wellbeing profiles and profile membership was examined to identify whether particular groups of young people were at particular disadvantage. The qualitative analysis is at an early stage but an initial reading of the data by the TRL group collectively identified some common themes. The data is now being coded with these as a starting point by the second, third and fourth authors but they expect this to evolve inductively.
Analysis of the primary questionnaire data established two wellbeing dimensions, which we labelled school support and relationships, and resilience on the basis of items contributing to these factors on the EFA. For the secondary data a three-factor solution was a better fit, revealing three wellbeing dimensions – school support, relationships, and resilience. Group differences were examined with some statistical differences being found for pupil-premium status, gender, ethnicity, English as an additional language status, age and school-attended. Differences were more pronounced in secondary rather than primary pupils. The cluster analysis revealed two wellbeing profiles in the primary schools but apart from pupil premium pupils being more prevalent in the less positive cluster, there were few differences in cluster membership. In the secondary dataset, three main clusters were identified and these were clearly most positive (relatively high scores across the three dimensions) about wellbeing, moderately positive (middling scores across dimensions) and less positive (lower scores across all dimensions). Girls and older students were overrepresented in the more negative profiles and schools did vary in cluster composition. Interestingly pupil premium students were not significantly clustered in the more negative profiles, although there was a trend towards this. This implies that although differences overall are less stark in primary schools, pupil premium pupils are more at risk and need support to improve their wellbeing. Secondary schools also need to attend to other groups at potential risk such as girls and older students. The interviews should shed further insight as aspects such as caring and support, curriculum, involvement in school activities, challenges and stress form part of the coding approach. Key themes will be presented and the implications of these together with the quantitative data will be discussed, particularly in terms of how this will inform the next phase of our research.
Ball, S. J. (1993). Education Markets, Choice and Social Class: the market as a class strategy in the UK and USA. British Journal of Sociology of Education, 14, 3-19. Broadbent, E., Gougoulis, J., Lui, N., Pota, V., & Simons, J. (2017). What the World's Young People Think and Feel. Retrieved from London: https://www.varkeyfoundation.org/generation-z-global-citizenship-survey Deci, E. L., & Ryan, R. M. (2008). Hedonia, Eudaimonia, and well-being: An Introduction. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9(1), 1-11. Gutman, L. M., & Vorhaus, J. (2012). The Impact of Pupil Behaviour and Wellbeing on Educational Outcomes. London: DfE Pople, L., Rees, G., Main, G., & Bradshaw, J. (2015). The Good Childhood Report 2015. Retrieved from London: http://www.childrenssociety.org.uk/sites/default/files/TheGoodChildhoodReport2015.pdf. McLellan, R., & Steward, S. (2015). Meauring Student Wellbeing in the School Context. Cambridge Journal of Education, 45(3), 307-332. doi:10.1080/0305764X.2014.889659 Tashakkori, A., & Teddlie, C. (1998). Mixed Methodology: Combining qualitative and quantitative approaches. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage. The Children’s Society (2017) The Good Childhood Report 2016. London: The Children’s Society. United Nations Children's Fund. (2007). Child poverty in perspective: An overview of child wellbeing in rich countries. Florence: Unicef Innocenti Research Centre. UNICEF Office of Research. (2013). Child Well-being in Rich Countries: A comparative overview. Retrieved from Florence: http://www.unicef.org.uk/Images/Campaigns/FINAL_RC11-ENG-LORES-fnl2.pdf.
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