Barnardo's survey reveals children's biggest fears

Difficult classwork, moving schools and being bullied are the top concerns children have as they start the new school year, a survey out today reveals.

The YouGov survey for Barnardo’s is published on the same day the charity broadcasts a ground-breaking TV advert highlighting the importance of mental health support services for children and young people.

In the ad, to be aired this morning on Channel 4, snarling computer-generated hyenas symbolise the anxiety a frightened young girl feels as she walks home from school and checks her smart phone in her bedroom.

These feelings were echoed in a new back-to-school survey by YouGov of over 1,000 eight to 15-year-olds in England, Scotland and Wales which shows:

  • 40 per cent are worried that school work will be too hard and they won’t be able to do it when they go back to school after the summer. This was a concern for half of 15-year-olds as they approach their final year of GCSEs.
  • 24 per cent are worried about changing schools, class or teachers, rising to 53 per cent of 11-year-olds as they move to secondary school
  • 19 per cent worry that someone they know might be bullied, or continue to be bullied and that they won’t have anyone to talk to and 53 per cent of 8-year-olds said their friends had experienced someone hurting them, such as kicking or punching them.
  • 70 per cent said this bullying had made their friends feel upset, 60 per cent sad and 40 per cent anxious.

Barnardo’s chief executive Javed Khan said:

“Our TV advert makes for challenging viewing, but we want to show the very real fear and distress experienced by many. Children returning to school after the summer worry about whether the work will be too hard, that they won’t like their new school, or that they might get picked on by other children.

“For the vulnerable children Barnardo’s supports, this often comes on top of other challenges – such as a history of sexual abuse, criminal exploitation, or being in the care system. 

“One-in-eight children aged 5 to19 in England has at least one mental health disorder and many reach crisis point before receiving treatment. Our UK-wide specialist mental health services see first-hand how anxieties have the potential to cause long lasting trauma.

“But as our new TV ad demonstrates, with the right support from a trusted adult, children can recover from difficult experiences and work towards a positive future.”

In terms of bullying, the YouGov results also reveal that:

  • Four out of five children (77 per cent) know a friend who has experienced a form of bullying
  • 31 per cent of 13-year-olds said their friends had been sent rude messages online
  • More than a third (35 per cent) said their friends had not wanted to go to school or college because of bullying, increasing to 44 per cent for 12 and 13-year-olds.

Thankfully, the majority of children said they would tell a friend, family member or teacher if another child or young person did or said something to them that made them feel upset.

Barnardo’s wants schools to recognise the important role they play and to provide safe spaces where children can talk to a trusted adult about their concerns.

The charity is calling for the Government  and Ofsted to prioritise children’s mental health and wellbeing and make sure all children, parents and carers have access to education and guidance on safe social media use.


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