British teenagers are 'more stressed than their peers', says OECD

Perhaps the most distressing threat to student well-being is bullying, and it can have serious consequences for the victim, the bully and bystanders.

"Different cultures value different things", Dr Goss said.

On average across OECD countries, 59% of students reported they often worry that taking a test will be hard, and 66% reported feeling stressed about poor grades.

A substantial number of young people feel isolated, humiliated, feel like an outsider at school or are physically assaulted.

"The returns for students doing higher education are high in Australia compared to other countries because our economy has a higher-level service sector with fewer lower-skilled manufacturing jobs". The Dominican Republic had the happiest students.

Many girls, in particular, feel as though they do not fit in at school and British pupils are also more likely than average to be bullied.

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"Assessment is an important part of education but it is also important that the test period is managed so students feel supported throughout. There is no secret, you perform better if you feel valued, if you feel well treated, if you are given a hand to succeed!"

There are also big differences between countries on these measures.

Students who felt their teacher was willing to provide help and was interested in their learning were about 1.3 times more likely to feel that they belonged at school, researchers found.

In all countries that participated in the study, girls reported greater anxiety about school work than boys.

It also found that nearly a quarter of pupils in the United Kingdom had been bullied at least "a few times a month", rising to 27 per cent for the most disadvantaged pupils.

Despite reasonably high average levels of satisfaction, bullying was a significant problem for many youngsters, with a large proportion saying they had been victims.

Those whose parents regularly talked to them were two-thirds of a school year ahead in science.

The strength of this relationship is well beyond the impact of most school resources and school factors measured by Pisa tests. Governments can also take action by promoting work-life balance policies. "All a teacher can do is teach children as well as possible and help children keep tests in perspective, reassure them if they do badly and celebrate it they do well". But boys were more likely than girls to describe themselves as ambitious and to aspire to be the best, whatever they do. A stronger focus on classroom and relationship management in professional development may give teachers better means to connect with their students.

The reported lack of happiness teenagers have in British schools is offset by their high ambitions, the report found. Not least, schools are the first place where children experience society in all its facets, and those experiences can have a profound influence on students' attitudes and behaviour in life.

Students who are highly satisfied with their life tend to have greater resilience and are more tenacious in the face of academic challenges. PISA suggests that there is much teachers can do about this too.

United Kingdom children are more likely to be bullied, suffer with anxiety and struggle with lower life satisfaction than their peers across the developed world, a major study has shown.

They need to find a way to encourage achievement without generating an excessive fear of failure.

Teachers play a big role in creating the conditions for students' well-being at school and governments should not define the role of teachers exclusively through the number of instruction hours.

"These findings show how teachers, schools and parents can make a real difference to children's well-being", said OECD Chief of Staff Gabriela Ramos, launching the report in London.

  • Leroy Wright