15 July 2017
The NUT conducted a one day online members’ survey of secondary school teachers on 7 July to seek views on pupils’ confidence in their body image. 492 secondary school teachers responded.
Nearly all teachers, 98%, indicated that some or more of their students are affected by ‘worries about how they look’. This is resulting in many pupils opting out of physical activity or suffering from eating disorders.
One teacher wrote ’Perception of what a normal body type is has been warped! Plus, the way one should dress and make up expectations are now such that our young people are no longer children. In a secondary school everyone should look at least 18! This hits when generally students get to year 9.’’
Teachers felt that the media and social media made their lives more difficult in helping young people develop strong self-esteem and positive self – image. “Social media is king at the moment and they live their lives by what they see on it.’’
Many felt current education policy is hindering teachers from helping young people develop strong self-esteem and positive self-image. In particular: the lack of time to deliver Personal, Social and Health Education (PSHE), a narrowing of the curriculum and excessive focus on particular subjects because of targets and accountability.
Kevin Courtney, General Secretary, National Union of Teachers, said; “We're delighted the Youth Select Committee is exploring body image and children and young people’s self-esteem. Our new figures show that teachers believe negative body image flows largely from the pressures to look a certain way on social media. Teachers identified that young people are looking to a narrow range of celebrities as role models. This snap shot survey identifies the work we need to do to help young people recognise that we come in all shapes, sizes and ages; and to break down the stereotypes about appearances which flow from sexism and racism.
‘Teachers identified that the media has a responsibility to change the way it presents body image and physical appearance. Teachers also told us they want to develop a broad range of learning opportunities to help support students' self-esteem - using assemblies, PSHE, art, drama, sport and outdoor learning. But this whole school approach is made much harder by national policies which fuel exam factory pressures. Teachers are clear we don't have the right success criteria for schools.
‘We simply mustn’t push out arts, dance and drama in an overly narrow focus on academic subjects. Nor must we keep forcing schools to cut pastoral posts and systems because of the school funding cuts. "