- 92% of students feel safe at school
- There's been a 10% increase in students eating a proper lunch, thanks in part to school food programs put in place because of the 2006 survey
- There been a 14% increase in attendance at parent teacher interviews
- Over 90% of students feel that their background is respected by adults in the school
So teenagers are stressed, that in itself is not necessarily a good or bad state, it depends on the source of the stress. Findings in neuroscience indicate that stress can have either a positive effect or a negative effect on learning, it seems to depend on the source of the stress. Generally speaking, a brain that's stressed by the material at hand (i.e. a kid worrying about the content on a test or a difficult assignment) has its learning capacity slightly enhanced by the anxiety. But a brain under stress from external sources (i.e. a kid worrying about her home situation or worrying about grades rather than the material at hand) will have diminished learning capacity. This last point makes intuitive sense, we've all experienced trying to learn while being distracted by negative forces in our lives, it tends not to go very well. Unfortunately, the overall results of this census would seem to indicate that it's the external stressors that are affecting young people today. Indeed, the census indicates that students seem to be pretty happy with the way things are going at school. It's the rest of the world that's having the deleterious effects on student anxiety levels. The chart below has some thought provoking numbers.
There's no doubt that we live in a stressful world, but surely we can do better than to create a culture where learning is disrupted by the level of anxiety in young people's lives? That external anxiety is anathema to learning is not a new idea, Csikszentmihalyi, Vygotsky and many others have come to the same conclusion. We need to start using this knowledge to design educational systems that do everything within their power to reduce stresses on students. Worrying about "marks" is one area in which we could make improvements, and at our school we're tackling that (slowly). Post secondary direction is another area in which we should do more to alleviate worries. We need to convince more kids that it's okay to not be a "white collar" professional. (In fact, it's very arguable that skilled trades are some of the few professions that simply cannot be outsourced). Of course there are external pressures on today's teenagers that we can do precious little to change. But we need to always be mindful that the more external stress we put on young brains, the less learning we can expect them to achieve.