Posted: 22 May 2013

The kids are all Wight: Gauging children’s well-being on the Isle of Wight

In partnership with the Isle of Wight Council, we recently launched a report detailing the findings of an island-wide survey of children and young people that we carried out last autumn.

Almost 5000 children in 38 primary schools and six secondary schools took part in the survey. We also carried out consultations with children through primary, secondary and special schools, youth centres, on school buses, and with a group of looked after children. 

In keeping with the national picture, most children on the Isle of Wight were relatively happy with their lives, but around 8 to 10% had low overall well-being (meaning that they scored below the midpoint on a 0-10 scale, where 0 = very unhappy and 10 = very happy).

A chart showing levels of children's well-being, illustrating that 8-10% had low well-being

Family matters

Some groups of children were more likely than others to have low well-being. For example, children that don’t live with their family, children who receive free school meals or live in workless households, and children from black and minority ethnic backgrounds. These findings are similar to what we have found nationally.

Generally, children on the Isle of Wight were just as happy with different aspects of their lives as their peers nationally. However, they were a little happier with their family relationships and a little less happy with their school and appearance. 

A chart illustrating levels of happiness with different aspects of young people's lives, including family and friends - which have higher levels of happiness - and appearance, which has the lowest level

What children say about school

Children on the island had high aspirations to do well and to go on to further education. However, there were some aspects of school life with which they were less happy, including feeling safe at school. 

These findings prompted us to talk to young people about safety at school in the consultation. One boy in year 8 gave his perspective, saying: ‘I’ve got my friends at the school but a lot of children don’t behave well and the teachers don’t sort it out’.

Another year 8 boy linked the issue of safety at school to that of smoking. He said: ‘people smoke, makes me feel unsafe’. 

chart illustrating levels of children unhappy with aspects of school, including facilities (which was 25% on the Isle of Wight) and being listened to (20% of children were unhappy with this aspect on the Isle of Wight, compared to 15% nationally)

Worries about appearance

Physical appearance is the theme that children tend to be least happy with. 

Girls of secondary school age, in particular, often worry about the way they look. However, on the Isle of Wight, this finding was more marked than what we have found nationally.

We asked girls and boys on the Isle of Wight whether they agree with the statement I often worry about the way I look. Our graph illustrates the responses we received.

chart illustrating levels of unhappiness with their appearance

When we asked about appearance in the consultation, girls talked about issues related to wearing make-up. On the one hand, they described being teased, insulted or bullied by peers for not wearing make up, while on the other hand, they talked about getting in trouble with the school if they did. 

As one girl in year 10 said: ‘Some girls wear make up to fit in, if you don’t wear it you get insulted. If you do, you get called a slag and get told off by teachers.’

Our long-running well-being research

One of the benefits of our long-running well-being research programme is that we hold nationally representative data on all the key aspects of children’s lives, which enables us to draw comparisons between local and national findings and identify what the key issues are for a local area.

On the Isle of Wight, there is already evidence that this will lead to tangible actions to improve children’s lives. These findings of our children and young people’s survey have been shared with the Children and Young People’s Strategic Partnership group, who have undertaken to take account of issues raised by the survey in a children and young people’s plan that will be published later this year. 

Meet others on the Isle of Wight, let us know what you think

There will also be opportunities for interested schools and local communities to take part in Good Childhood Conversation events organised by The Children’s Society.

Our Good Childhood Conversation on the Isle of Wight will be held in Newport tomorrow:

Thursday 23 May
St George's School, Watergate Road, Newport, Isle of Wight
4pm - 6pm

If you have questions, please contact our Good Childhood Conversations team by email or by telephone, 020 7841 4650.

By Larissa Pople - Research team

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Informative. I clicked for the pun in the title and stayed for the graphs.