Parents say wellbeing in school is more important than academic results

New research, carried out by YouGov for the Youth Sport Trust, reveals parents’ appetite for schools to focus on young people’s physical, mental, social and emotional wellbeing.

The representative poll of over 2,000 UK adults also found that the majority of parents with children aged 18 or under see a strong link between positive wellbeing and schools prioritising PE, school sport and physical activity.

It comes as the Youth Sport Trust today (Thursday) hosts its 2020 Annual Conference which is themed ‘Getting to the Heart of a Well School’. The event will see hundreds of school and school sport leaders gather at the Ricoh Arena in Coventry to focus on the importance of human skills and wellbeing in the digital age, and what it means to be a ‘well school’.

Today’s research found that among parents with children aged 18 or under:

  • 62% agreed that the wellbeing of pupils is more important than their academic attainment
  • 54% agreed that pupils’ wellbeing is likely to be better in schools which prioritise sport, physical education and physical activity
  • 79% agreed that cuts to physical education, sport and break times in schools were likely to have a negative impact on pupils’ wellbeing.

Statistics from the Government’s annual school workforce census show that between 2010 and 2017, 51,600 hours of physical education were lost from timetables in English state-funded secondary schools. This has coincided with a decline in young people’s wellbeing, with increasing numbers suffering from mental health conditions, low life-satisfaction and loneliness. 

The Youth Sport Trust, which works to improve young people’s wellbeing through physical education, play and sport, is campaigning to reverse significant cuts to physical education and for the subject to be at the centre of wellbeing and achievement in education.

Youth Sport Trust Chief Executive Ali Oliver said:

“What parents want most of all is for their children to be happy and healthy.  We know academic results are a core priority for education, but these findings are a powerful reminder of the value parents today place on wider educational outcomes such as wellbeing.

“At the Youth Sport Trust we are clear that schools which foster wellbeing in their culture and climate create the best environment for learning.

“In recent years schools have faced increasing pressure to be accountable for exam results, and this has sometimes come at the expense of nurturing young people to be happy, healthy and well-equipped to find their place in the world.

“Parents want schools to be prioritising wellbeing and they see sport and physical education as an important part of that. In a changing world, PE and sport have a vital role to play in the education of every young person, developing the human skills that will help them to thrive.

“This is why we are announcing today the launch of a ‘Well School’ movement; a school community committed to staff and student wellbeing, and working together to innovate, share and develop effective practice. This movement will be characterised by a commitment to celebrate wider educational outcomes alongside exam results.” 

Find out more about the Youth Sport Trust’s new Well School movement:

Methodology note

All figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,095 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 13-14 February 2020. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all UK adults (aged 18+).

Published on 27 February 2020