Commissioned by the Essex Education Task Force, this report investigates pupil wellbeing using the results of the first round of a short wellbeing survey that took place in May 2022. The survey, based on the Good Childhood Index, developed by the Children’s Society, asks pupils a series of questions about how they feel about various aspects of their life, such as their school, home, and friends.

Just under 7,950 pupils responded to the survey from 38 schools across the 12 districts of Essex. Pupils surveyed werefrom years 6, 7, and 11 (referred to as ‘headline year groups’), as well as pupils from years 4 and 9, whose results will be tracked in subsequent reports.

The findings of our report resulted in recommendations that Essex schools should focus on building a positive culture around mental health via a ‘whole school’ approach and target the specific issue of lower wellbeing among gender-diverse pupils through anti-bias, anti-bullying, and bystander intervention training, as well as peer support and restorative justice programs.

The Essex survey of pupil wellbeing is planned to run for a further two years, during which we will continue to survey the wellbeing of pupils in our headline year groups years 6, 7 and 11. We’ll also track how wellbeing changes as cohorts of pupils move through the school system.

We intend to extend the scope of the survey to capture data on the drivers and domains of youth wellbeing in Essex, in addition to exploring how we can better engage with special schools.

Read the full report here: Pupil Wellbeing in Essex

Key findings:

  • Most pupils in Essex report wellbeing scores broadly in line with results observed in the most similar survey of pupils in the UK, the Good Childhood Report. However, pupils in Essex have lower wellbeing relating to their appearance (26.7 per cent report low wellbeing for this item in Essex, 11.7 per cent nationally), and feel less happy about how they use their time (16.7 per cent report low wellbeing for this item in Essex, 6.1 per cent nationally).


  • In line with national trends, older pupils report lower rates of wellbeing than younger pupils. 10.6 per cent of pupils in year 6 report low wellbeing, compared with 21.1 per cent of year 11 pupils.


  • While there are no significant differences between younger boys and girls, from year 7 onwards girls report lower rates of wellbeing than boys. In year 7, 16.9 per cent of girls report low wellbeing, compared to 9.0 per cent of boys. In year 11, this gap widens to 26.7 per cent of girls compared to 13.1 per cent of boys.


  • Genderdiverse pupils (pupils who selfreported their gender as transgender, nonbinary, or otherwise genderquestioning) report vastly lower rates of wellbeing, with over 70 per cent of genderdiverse pupils in year 7 reporting low wellbeing in ‘appearance’, compared with 40.0 per cent of girls and 16.6 per cent of boys.


  • Overall, we did not find statistically significant differences between ethnic groups, with the exception of year 11 pupils from black backgrounds reporting lower than average satisfaction with their school (37.6 per cent for pupils from black backgrounds reported low wellbeing in this domain compared to 25.0 per cent of white pupils).


  • Schools with higher levels of free school meal (FSM) eligibility tend to have slightly lower levels of wellbeing. For example, in year 7, 19.1 per cent of pupils in schools with the highest levels of FSM eligibility report low wellbeing, compared to 10.4 per cent of pupils in schools with the lowest eligibility. However, this relationship is weak and schoollevel disadvantage does not appear as strong an indicator of wellbeing as other characteristics investigated such as gender and age.


  • Schools that have implemented various council-led interventions have broadly similar rates of wellbeing to schools that have not implemented such interventions. However, this survey is not designed to detect the impact of these interventions and therefore cannot be treated as conclusive evidence of their success.


  • Basildon has significantly lower rates of wellbeing when compared with Essex as a whole (19.9 per cent of pupils in Basildon report low wellbeing when compared with 16.2 per cent for Essex as a whole). Chelmsford has significantly higher rates of wellbeing than Essex as a whole (11.6 per cent of pupils in Chelmsford report low wellbeing). Note this analysis does not control for underlying characteristics such as disadvantage which may affect differences in wellbeing between districts. We find other districts have significantly higher or lower rates of wellbeing compared with the average for Essex. However, smaller sample sizes for these other districts mean these rates should be treated with caution.

The Essex Education Task Force was established by Essex County Council in April 2021 as an independent body. At the heart of its work across Essex lie Renewal, Equality and Ambition. The two key aims are:

  • To minimise the impact of the pandemic on all children and young people as quickly as possible, with a three to fiveyear overview of phases of regeneration.
  • To capture and promote current innovation and best practice across the education system in Essex.

An initial budget of £1.5 million has already been invested in supporting the work of preschool and early years settings, schools, further education, governors and the voluntary sector. A major investment has focused on launching the Essex Year of Reading 2022.

This report from EPI is the second in a series of three commissioned reports (a) to identify ‘the learning gaps’ the Task Force needs to address, and (b) to evaluate the impact of the Task Force’s work over the next three years.