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Students’ wellbeing: PISA 2015 results

Only 28.3% of students in the UK reported that they were very satisfied with life

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) have released a report based on the 2015 Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) results looking for the first time at student wellbeing.

The report 'Students' Well-being: PISA 2015 Results'  analyses results from the survey of 540,000 15-year-old students in 72 countries, and focuses on their motivation to perform well, how they spend time outside of school and their relationships with parents, teachers and peers. The report shows that the UK sits below the OECD average when it comes to student life satisfaction.

Based on the findings of the research, 28.3% of students in the UK reported that they were very satisfied with life which was lower than the OECD average of 34.1%. Countries that reported highest levels of student satisfaction were the Dominican Republic, Mexico and Costa Rica who all reported that well over half of their students were very satisfied with life. The research shows that, instead of performance at school, life satisfaction is often influenced by the students' learning environment and their relationships with their teachers rather than their overall performance at school.

Although there were a number of reasons why the UK sat behind many other countries in life satisfaction, anxiety was a key issue. The research found that in the UK, 72% of students reported feeling very anxious before a test even though they were well prepared compared with the OECD average of 55%. In the UK, girls were reported to experience on average higher levels of anxiety than boys, and almost a quarter of girls reported that they felt like they didn't belong at school. It's incredibly important to note where the differences between boys and girls manifest themselves and that school and social pressures clearly play a bigger part for girls than boys.

It isn't just relationships inside school which can affect a student's school performance and life satisfaction. In the UK, 6.3% of students reported that their parents were not interested in their school activities. These students were found to be performing less well than their peers and were much more likely to report low satisfaction with their life compared with students reporting higher levels of parent interest. While the UK performed better than the OECD average on this aspect of wellbeing, the figures highlight the important role that parents play in their children's lives and how their attitudes can have a big impact on the performance and overall life satisfaction of their children.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, students' wellbeing was also found to be influenced by the adoption of a healthy lifestyle and the quality of their leisure time. In the UK, 63.4% of students reported exercising or playing sports before or after school which was lower than the overall OECD average of 69.8%. The research showed these students engaging in physical activity were more likely to report higher levels of life satisfaction and were less likely to report anxiety in relation to tests.

"These findings show how teachers, schools and parents can make a real difference to children's well-being," said OECD Chief of Staff Gabriela Ramos. "Together they can help young people develop a sense of control over their future and the resilience they need to be successful in life. There is no secret, you perform better if you feel valued, if you feel well treated, if you are given a hand to succeed!".

First published 05 January 2018