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Nov 19, 2020 | by Centre

What has wellbeing got to do with children and young people?

The Covid-19 pandemic has put the issue of children’s wellbeing under the spotlight. But how are children doing really? And how do we know? We gathered the experts to get to the heart of the issue in our latest podcast. 

ChairDeborah Hardoon, Head of Evidence – What Works Centre for Wellbeing


Adrian Bethune, Primary teacher and founder of Teach Happy

Richard Crellin, Wellbeing Policy and Research Manager – The Children’s Society

Dr Praveetha Patalay, Associate Professor – University College London

How are children doing?

Add a global pandemic, national lockdown and six months without school on top of this and it’s no surprise that the wellbeing of children is currently a big cause for concern. Yet the data shows a mixed picture of how children are impacted.

Impact of Covid-19 

  • Overall, children had coped well with lockdown, according to research by The Children’s Society. Some children even thrived, with more family time and less pressure from school. Where children coped less well was with not seeing friends and family. Social connections and a sense of control, in particular, are important to wellbeing – and lockdown took both of these away

It is also clear that as with adults, the impact of the pandemic has not been equal for all children.  

How do we know?

In the UK we are good at collecting national data on adult wellbeing – the ONS includes four wellbeing questions in its Annual Population Survey, commonly known as the ONS4 but there is still no regular, formal and systematic data collected for children, although the ONS has recently published its proposals for a new framework and the NHS did run a 2020 follow up to their 2017 survey on mental health of Children and young people.

Because there is no national measure for children’s wellbeing, schools often end up using different methods for measuring pupil wellbeing but then struggle to benchmark it. 

This is an important gap in the evidence. The Centre, along with The Children’s Society, is focusing on a comprehensive national measurement of children’s subjective wellbeing – ideally from Year Three (aged 7-8) upwards – on a regular, termly basis. You can read more about our work on children and young people’s wellbeing.

Doing this would mean that not only will schools be able to compare their own data with national trends, but decision makers can understand how children feel about their lives and then target resources properly and better understand outcomes. 

Making the difference

We asked our panellists what single thing they thought would make the biggest difference in improving children’s wellbeing.

Adrian Bethune

‘Adopt a whole school approach to mental health and wellbeing. Make wellbeing part of the whole school policy – where the senior team believes that wellbeing is a core part of a good education, and prioritises relationships and a sense of belonging within schools.’ 

Richard Crellin

‘Tackle child poverty. Although the relationship between children’s wellbeing and income is complex, we know it has pernicious effects in all areas of life. Ultimately poverty puts stress on family relationships – and this is one of the key drivers of child wellbeing.’ 

Praveetha Patalay

‘Take the pressure off. When we are growing up, our future often depends on performing well in a few key moments (SATs, GCSEs, A Levels). Inequality puts even more pressure on children in these moments, to do well for a better life. We need to create more space for children to fail, and therefore to succeed overall.’

Children and young people's wellbeing

Find out more about our work to better measure, protect, and improve wellbeing.

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Practice Examples
Jan 22, 2015
Career Connect: Supporting resilience through transitions into employment, education, and training.
Jan 5, 2015
Improving the wellbeing of children and young people: Evidence from The Children’s Society and NEF
Sep 20, 2017
Measuring children’s wellbeing in practice: how to make it work?
Sep 14, 2018
Mental health in young people entering uni
Sep 18, 2019 | By Lucy Bailey
Is it possible to embed wellbeing in schools?
Guest Blog
Jun 17, 2020 | By Adrian Bethune
Measuring wellbeing in schools and colleges
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Nov 19, 2014 | By Centre
Children & Young people’s wellbeing in the UK
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Aug 31, 2018 | By Centre
Children’s wellbeing since 1995: what’s changed?
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Oct 10, 2016 | By Tricia
Children’s mental wellbeing and ill-health: not two sides of the same coin
Guest Blog
May 31, 2017 | By Centre
Does income matter for children’s happiness?
Centre Blog

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Children and young people's wellbeing

Find out more about our work to better measure, protect, and improve wellbeing.

Previous article
Next article