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Children’s School Lives: Kids mostly happy and positive about learning in primary school

Posted 29 May, 2024

Primary school children generally feel happy and safe at school and view it as a key component of happiness in their lives.

This is according to the (opens in a new window)latest report from the '(opens in a new window)Children’s School Lives' (CSL) study, a landmark UCD-led project following 4,000 children across 189 schools in Ireland.

Most children, it reports, expressed positive feelings towards school and that those at primary level most often feel happy, feel good about themselves, feel cared for, and feel safe.

These positive emotions however tend to decrease as they get older, particularly for girls, with a notable decrease beginning from 4th to 6th class.

Led by (opens in a new window)Professor Dympna Devine and Associate Professor Jennifer Symonds, and assistant professors (opens in a new window)Seaneen Sloan and (opens in a new window)Gabriela Martinez Sainz, from the UCD School of Education, and carried out on behalf of the National Council for Curriculum and Assessment, the CSL study aims to follow thousands of children through their primary education to learn in detail about their experiences.

Its latest report found while most children report experiencing worry or anxiety at some point, these levels of anxiety overall appear to increase as children progress through primary school.

A main source of anxiety were friendship issues and worries about doing well in school as the transition to secondary level education looms.

In interviews, children spoke of their friends as a key source of happiness and support in school, and most children felt that their classmates cared about them.

However, friendship or peer issues were a source of stress for children, with ‘fitting in’ and being included amongst peers a challenge.

Around one in four children in 4th, 5th and 6th class reported being a victim of bullying at least once.

This figure however was found to be close to 50% in the younger cohort of children involved in the study.

Higher levels of bullying were reported by children in the younger cohort, in 2nd class in 2023, compared to the older cohort in 4th, 5th, and 6th class.

One explanation offered by the report is that young children could be more comfortable in disclosing their experience of bullying.

However, another is that the study is recording a decline in children’s social skills in these earlier years due to the prolonged school closures and social restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic.

By: David Kearns, Digital Journalist / Media Officer, UCD University Relations

To contact the UCD News & Content Team, email: newsdesk@ucd.ie