The dwindling support network
School pressure, loneliness and the support network seem to get worse as young people progress through high school. According to a recent comprehensive survey by the School Health Research Network, the percentage of young people answering positively to a range of questions around resilience and emotional support dwindles with each year of high school.
The pressure builds for year 11s
Year 7s are generally the most upbeat when asked about whether they felt that adults listened. They were also the most likely to say they found it easy to talk to Mum or Dad. Year 10 and 11 were less likely to answer positively to the same questions. A lower percentage of year 11s agreed that they have sufficient emotional support. In fact, the percentage agreeing that they have enough emotional support dropped with every school year group between years 7 and 11.
Whether this is due to an actual or perceived decline in support is unclear. What is clear, though, is that proportionally less year 10s and 11s feel that adults are there for them and proportionately more of these pupils feel the weight of school pressure and loneliness during summer. 85% of year 7s felt that support was available for them in school; whereas only 64% of year 11s felt the same. A similar pattern can be seen across a number of indicators.
Infographic: the wheel of complicated
We designed this infographic to capture some of the questions in the survey related to resilience and the support network. Each coloured line represents a different year group. The further out the line extends from the middle, the more positive the responses were overall.
The questions in the radial chart were chosen from the 2017/18 survey specifically where there was a clear gradual change in responses with each school year group. No formal statistical test has been carried out on the data. Therefore, it’s not possible to say for sure that there is a definitive trend in answers for each of the questions shown. Still, the pattern is interesting and worth taking note of considering that the survey attempted to cover the majority of year 7-11s in Wales. The response rate was pretty decent too – 73% of those sampled. By survey standards, this is extensive coverage.
Supporting young people
Perhaps the older ones in our youth groups really do need to know that adults are there for them, to support them as as the pressure piles on.
How can we effectively communicate this to our young people? How can we make space for difficult and sensitive conversations amongst the noise and energy that younger ones bring?
While greater proportions of senior youth show that they lack sufficient emotional support, there are still significant proportions of younger ones who feel that they are in this difficult position too.
Perhaps a designated chat room space (whether a room, a sofa or a designated person wearing a ‘Talk to me’ t-shirt) weaved into our regular programming might help increase the prominence of what our words might sometimes fail to communicate:
‘We are (literally) here, if you ever want to chat.’