Wellbeing and location most important factors for parents choosing a school

New research commissioned by children’s charity the Youth Sport Trust and carried out by YouGov reveals an appetite among UK parents to hear more from schools about what they are doing to support children’s wellbeing.

Wellbeing is the most important issue for secondary school parents when choosing a school for their children, new research published today shows. For primary school parents, location is the most important factor, closely followed by wellbeing. 

It comes as a new movement called Well Schools – powered by the Youth Sport Trust and Bupa Foundation – launches today. Headteachers and teachers from 33 schools representing more than 23,200 children have helped pioneer the initiative which aims to support schools across the country to put wellbeing at the heart of young people’s education and place a greater emphasis on the outcomes schools achieve beyond academic attainment.  

The launch of Well Schools sees a call from school leaders for a greater focus on wellbeing in education, which chimes with the views of most parents who see wellbeing as among the most important things for schools to prioritise. Already, the charity says Well Schools has received expressions of interest from 3,500 schools across the UK. 

Key findings from today’s research among parents show: 
  • When asked to choose the most important factors when deciding on a secondary school for their children, wellbeing of pupils at the school was the most popular choice with 65% of parents saying this was an important factor. The next most popular factors were location (63%), facilities at the school such as sports centre, IT lab etc (60%), culture and ethos promoted by the headteacher and staff (57%), Ofsted rating (54%) and then exam results (52%) 
  • For parents choosing a primary school for their children 68% said location was one of the most important factors, followed by pupil wellbeing (63%), culture and ethos (55%), Ofsted rating (51%), facilities (46%) and then enrichment programmes offered by the school (43%) 
  • Two out of three parents (68%) agreed or strongly agreed that they would like to see more information on what schools were doing to support the wellbeing of pupils and 70% said it should be easier to find this out. In contrast, less than half of parents (43%) said they currently felt well informed on what their child’s school was doing to support wellbeing 
  • 58% of parents agreed wellbeing was likely to be better in schools which prioritised sport, Physical Education and physical activity. 80% agreed that cuts to Physical Education, sport and break times were likely to have a negative impact on young people’s wellbeing 

Separate research commissioned by the Youth Sport Trust and carried out by YouGov showed that the importance attached to wellbeing by parents was shared by young people. 62% of young people aged 6 to 15 said that being happy and healthy was more important than school and grades, compared with just 6% who disagreed. 

Launch of Well Schools  

Any school can become part of the Well Schools movement and access resources for free by pledging to put wellbeing at the heart of their teaching and learning, connect with other schools to share effective practice, and championing school outcome measures which go beyond academic performance.  

Ali Oliver, Chief Executive of the Youth Sport Trust, said: 

Prioritising wellbeing in our schools has never been more important as the nation recovers from the lockdown and partial school closures enforced by Coronavirus. It was needed before this pandemic, and it will be needed long into the future. UNICEF and the Children’s Society has recently published data which reinforces the need to address young people’s wellbeing if we want them to be healthy, happy and achieve their potential in the classroom. Well Schools is driven by schools, for schools, and we will give it every ounce of support we can. 

Our research shows there is a strong appetite from parents for more information and action in schools to support their children’s wellbeing. Through Well Schools we will facilitate a self-improving network of schools which share practice, signpost services and together build momentum behind a powerful pioneering education culture which delivers academic outcomes built on the foundation of physical, social and emotional wellbeing among students and staff.

Dr Radha Modgil, an NHS GP and Ambassador for the Youth Sport Trust, said: 

“This is a challenging and stressful time not only for children but our teachers too and following their first few weeks back at school, it's important we listen to and support them. 

“I have long felt that we need something like Well Schools to help teacher’s as well as pupil wellbeing. Without healthy, happy teachers, we won’t have healthy and happy children. The two are so intertwined. I encourage all schools to make the Well School pledge sending a loud and clear message that physical, emotional and mental wellbeing are the foundation on which everything else is based and thrives from.”

Children’s Minister Vicky Ford said: 

Schools and teachers play a crucial role in nurturing every pupils’ development, not just in their academic success but just as importantly in their physical and mental wellbeing. That’s why we are providing webinars, online resources and training modules for teachers focused on supporting wellbeing, and have invested £8 million in a new training programme run by experts to respond to the additional pressures some pupils and staff may be feeling as a result of the pandemic. It builds on the work we have already done to support staff wellbeing and the introduction of the new relationships and health education curriculum.  

Every parent wants their child to be happy and settled in their education, so I welcome the Well Schools movement and hope many more schools take the pledge to put wellbeing at the heart of teaching and learning.

Lisa Fathers, Chair of the Well Schools Board, said: 

“Wellbeing is at the core of what makes a good school, and nothing is more important than children being happy and healthy. Although the last few months have been challenging for families and schools, I think it is a good thing that we re-focus on what is important and what matters. 

“Already, we have made amazing progress through Well Schools. I am proud to have been appointed chair of the newly formed Board and look forwards to helping to keep our vision and mission on track for Well Schools.” 

Alex Cole, Chair of the Bupa Foundation, said:  

“It’s vital we prioritise the mental and physical wellbeing of the next generation and give young people from all backgrounds the best possible start in life.  The Bupa Foundation is proud to be working alongside Youth Sport Trust to power the Well Schools movement. As part of this, our Wellbeing for Educators programme will give teachers and school staff practical tools to support their resilience and personal energy.” 

Parents can find more information about Well Schools by visiting www.youthsporttrust.org/wellschool. If you are a school who would like to register as a Well School and join the movement visit www.well-school.org 

Research methodology 

Total sample size was 1,396 children aged 6 to 15. Fieldwork was undertaken between 5th - 11th June 2020.  The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB children (aged 6 to 15).

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