The results of the 2015 Northern Ireland Young Life and Times (YLT) and Kids Life and Times (KLT) surveys were launched yesterday at Queen’s University Belfast. There were new questions this time about shared education, which revealed broadly positive experiences and expectations. There were questions about participation in sport, which highlighted areas which could be focused on to improve health and well-being; and new questions about child sexual exploitation and children serving as carers.
Respondents to the YLT are 16 years old, while respondents to the KLT are 10-11 years old.
June Wilkinson, Head of the Children and Young People’s Strategy Team in the Department of Education, opened the launch by speaking about the new strategy for children and young people. It is currently being developed through a process of consultation. She said that it is hoped that children and young people’s interests and needs will be reflected in the forthcoming Programme for Government.
In that context, the views expressed in the YLT and KLT could inform policy on a range of education and well-being issues.
Dr Katrina Lloyd, speaking about the findings on Shared Education, noted that a majority of children and young people have already participated in shared educational activities – and said they enjoyed them. Girls were more likely than boys to say they enjoyed sharing activities.
|Enjoyed Sharing Projects||76%||81%|
|Enjoyed Sharing Classes||73%||69%|
|Enjoyed Sharing Facilities||74%||65%|
On the YLT, Nearly half of respondents (47%) were in favour of Government plans for greater sharing in education, 24% were unfavourable and 29% were neither favourable/ unfavourable. When deciding on potential changes in education, most respondents felt Government should prioritise widening subject choice irrespective of school (84%), while least important should be saving money (22%).
The four things that young people would like most about getting together with different schools were making new friends (92%); doing classes they didn’t normally get to do (88%); being with young people from a different ethnic background (81%); and being with young people of a different religion (79%).
Lloyd referenced the Department of Education’s 2015 document, ‘Sharing Works: A Policy for Shared Education,’ noting that students’ positive experiences of sharing underline the need for further development of this policy.
Sport and Physical Activity
Dr Dirk Schubotz presented the results from the questions on sport and physical activity. These questions were funded by SportNI. Angharad Bunt, from SportNI’s participation team, remarked that the results would help shape policy in areas such as increasing participation and lifecourse transitions (i.e. understanding when and why children cease to be as physically active.)
It is recommended that children and young people engage in an hour of physical activity at least seven times per week. The results confirmed that children who do take an hour of exercise seven times per week score better on measures of emotional well-being. While most children and young people in Northern Ireland do not meet this one hour X seven standard, they are taking part in a range of everyday activities:
|Walk/cycle to school||42%||49%|
|Sport outside school||52%||74%|
|Other physical activity||30%||N/A|
Among young people, the three most popular activities were walking, running and football. It is striking that the first two activities are not ‘organised’ (unless, for example, a young person is in an athletics club) – raising questions about how more walking and running could be encouraged. Among children, the three most popular activities were football, running and swimming.
Unsurprisingly, there was a gender gap – with boys more active than girls. Boys also receive more encouragement from their families to be physically active.
On the YLT survey, 74% of girls said they had no sports role model or idol – compared to just 49% of boys. However, when asked to name sports idols, Jessica Ennis Hill came out top of the list (among girls and boys), beating out Cristiano Ronaldo and Steven Gerrard.
Languages and Internationalisation
Two pupils who had taken the YLT – Nikki Ireland and Courtney Rodgers – spoke about their experiences taking the survey and participating in a British Council focus group on languages and internationalisation.
A majority of young people want to work or study abroad, with only 15% (primarily from rural areas) saying that they need only proficiency in English.
You can watch a video about the study on languages and internationalisation here:
Ireland said she appreciated taking the YLT survey ‘because it asked you questions you are not ever really asked – especially about community relations. We are not asked enough about that, and we don’t learn enough about our history.’
Both Ireland and Rodgers participated in a placement in the School of Sociology, Social Policy and Social Work in Queen’s in January, and said they were fascinated to discover the CAIN website about the conflict in and about Northern Ireland.
They also said that they thought future YLT surveys should include questions on mental health and well-being.
Gladys is a Research Fellow in the Senator George J Mitchell Institute for Global Peace, Security and Justice at Queen’s University Belfast. She also blogs on religion and politics at www.gladysganiel.com