I read this week that British children are amongst the unhappiest in Europe. Why is this?

Exams are  supposed to be one of the causes. I saw 10 year old children on TV recently saying that they were very “stressed” about taking the next SATS. Who is causing all this stress? Is it the government by setting this measure of their achievements, the teachers worrying about their place in the tables, ambitious parents or the media feeding the frenzy about league tables?

When I was a child we had regular tests and school exams and then when we were 10+ we took the misnamed 11+. (We took it in the February of the calendar year in which we had our 11th birthday, so children born in December were only just 10.) I don’t remember any more stress than for a normal school exam. There was no great build up to it, no one had extra tuition (I doubt if many of the parents could have afforded it) afterwards we went about our normal school life and thought no more about it until those of us who were lucky enough to pass were invited to attend the interviews at the grammar school in June.

We were not a rich family by any means, but I was fortunate because I had a very secure childhood surrounded by family and extended family. Part of that security was because we “knew how far we could push the boundaries” and the results if we overstepped those boundaries. We may have felt hard done by at times but deep down we knew that people cared enough to impose them and this gave us security.

We were lucky too that our childhood lasted for more years than it seems to now. We were not inundated with advertising and stories about wealthy lifestyles to influence us into a “want it all and want it now” society.

Only the fortunate few left home to train, in university, in college or hospital, but other training was repected too, whether it was by apprenticeship, at the local newspaper, factory or office etc. so,  contrary to reports from some people in recent years, it  did not have to be the end of ambition if  the will to succeed was there.

Another report I read this week, by Professor Andrew Clark and Claudia Senik, said that envy of our friends and their incomes was making us ill!

“Keeping up with the Joneses” always used to be a bit of a joke. Of course we have probably all envied someone’s new acquisition but not to the point of making ourselves ill!

Perhaps with this credit crunch we will all start to think more about what is really important and realise that “things” and position in society are not as important as our friends and family and a contented mind.

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