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Last Updated: Monday, 21 May 2007, 15:53 GMT 16:53 UK
England has 'unhappiest children'
Child in silhouette
The Unicef study placed the UK at the bottom of the league for child well-being
A controversial Unicef report placing the UK bottom of the league for child well-being is really talking about England, a statistician has said.

The report, which was criticised by the government, placed the UK at the bottom of 21 industrialised nations.

But a further study of the report's data reveals Scots and Welsh children are much happier than in England.

Dr Kevin McConway told Radio 4's More Or Less that some of the Unicef conclusions were based on England.

In the Unicef report - which placed the UK at the bottom - in terms of the data they got from the World Health Organisation they only used the English data
Dr Kevin McConway, Open University

Dr McConway, of the Open University, studied the original survey data Unicef used to compile its report.

Unicef, the United Nations childrens' agency, based its report on 40 indicators including poverty, family, relationships and health.

"Britain came off pretty badly with most of the dimensions looked at," he said.

"Some of the data was based on a World Health Organisation which was done separately in England, Scotland and Wales and it wasn't done at all in Northern Ireland.

"In the Unicef report - which placed the UK at the bottom - in terms of the data they got from the WHO they only used the English data.

"For example they asked 11, 13 and 15 -year-olds if they found other classmates kind and helpful - England did very badly on that with only 40% but in Scotland and Wales it was much higher - it was two thirds in both of those areas.

"This would have put Scotland and Wales in the middle of the pack of other countries covered in the Unicef survey, whereas England is doing pretty badly."

He said the issue of bullying also showed similar variations.

"In England it was 36% while in Scotland and Wales it was below 30%, which was pretty much average for the countries looked at - England is worse," said Dr McConway.

Shocking findings

"Another is the percentage of youngsters who said they liked school a lot. In England it is 19% while Scotland and Wales are again middle of the pack with 24%.

"England isn't the worst country - in Finland it was 8% - but there is still a difference between England and the rest of the UK."

When the report was released Welfare reform minister Jim Murphy said some of its data was out of date although the study had some importance.

The Children's Society called its findings shocking, while Save The Children UK said it was shameful to see the UK at the bottom of the table.


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