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Page last updated at 00:04 GMT, Thursday, 24 March 2011

BBC survey reveals snapshot of UK schoolchildren

child looks at mobile phone and holds crucifix

By Hanna White, BBC News

A third of schoolchildren who took part in a UK-wide BBC survey say they do not believe in God, a majority help adults to use the internet and at least one in three is feeling the effects of the economic slowdown.

These are just some of the findings of a BBC School Report survey of more than 24,000 children aged 11 to 16. It gives a unique insight into the daily lives, fears and aspirations of a generation of young people in the UK, as outlined below.


When asked "What is your religion?" just under 34% of children surveyed said they did not have one.

Child prays during Pope Benedict's visit to the UK
A third of children said they didn't believe in God

Compare that with 15% of the adult population of the UK who said they didn't have a religion 10 years ago during the last census.

In a separate question - do you believe in a god or more gods? - just under 40% said they did but nearly 32% said they did not.

Could this be a sign of a rise in secularism in the UK? We'll find out when results of this year's census are published later this year.


The survey reveals some interesting aspects to children's use of mobile phones and the internet. A majority of children surveyed (67%) said they had web access on their phones. For children aged 11 and 12 the figure was 56% and 63% respectively.

While most parents and carers are aware they can block certain sites on their home computers, they may not realise that most mobile phone companies have signed up to an agreement whereby parents can request they block undesirable websites. Internet awareness website Kidsmart , run by Childnet, has some useful advice.

The most popular way for school friends to keep in touch was texting (70%), followed by social networking sites (66%).

Almost all children who responded (95%) said they had a computer at home and most helped adults in their family find websites (60%) and get to grips with email (48%).

Graph shows how young people help adult family members with the internet


It seems a significant proportion of children surveyed are feeling the effects of the economic downturn.

A third said they knew someone who had lost their job. A similar proportion said their family had to cut back on spending. One in five said less money was spent on their Christmas presents last year.

Graph shows effects on schoolchildren of economic downturn


Graph shows preceived dangers in the world

Terrorism and climate change emerged as the two biggest threats to the world from a list of nine, according to children surveyed.

A large proportion of children who took part in the survey (45%) said they enjoyed living in their local area, but 18% said they only felt safe "some of the time" and 4% said they never felt safe where they lived.

Most have never been a victim of crime but more than one in six - that's 4,133 children - said they had been victims of mugging, theft or burglary.

Crime also featured as the most common answer (53%) to the question "What do you think poses the biggest dangers to you?" Alcohol and drugs also featured high on the list of major threats (50.1%).

Graph shows perceived biggest dangers to own safety


When asked which two things they would like to achieve by the age of 30, owning a house and earning a lot of money were top aspirations of the 11-to-16-year-olds surveyed.

Just 7% chose "being famous" as an option. This contrasts with a 2008 survey that revealed 70% of primary and secondary school teachers feared the cult of celebrity was producing a generation that did not value hard work and education to achieve their dreams.

In fact, 57% of children in this year's School Report survey said they thought they would go to university. This, in spite of last year's government vote to raise the cap on tuition fees. Nine per cent said they would not go to university, and 21% said they didn't know.

Graph shows most popular ambitions


When asked whether they would vote when they were 18 years old, only 48% of children surveyed said they would. This tallies with the turnout of young voters (aged 18 to 25) at the last general election which was 44%.

Kate Middleton and Prince William
It's the Royal Wedding soon but many say they're not interested in monarchy

However, the percentage of those saying they would vote rose with age with 56% of those aged 16 who answered the survey saying they would go to the polls.

A significant proportion of respondents said they didn't know how to make their political opinions heard (16%). "Writing to my MP" was the most popular answer (17%). More children opted for "setting up something on a social network site" (7%) than "going on a demonstration" (6%).

Negative views of the Royal Family outnumbered the positive. When asked what best described their view of the Royal Family, the most popular option was "I am not interested in the Royal Family" (34%) and 10% said there should be no Royal Family. Twenty-one per cent said they liked the Royals and 11% said they were proud of the monarchy.


The World Health Organization recommends children aged between five and 17 should do at least one hour of "moderate-to vigorous-intensity" exercise every day.

Young men playing football
Children were asked about sport in and out of school

The BBC School Report survey shows that half of respondents said they had done just two hours or less of sport a week at school the previous week. Forty per cent said they had taken part in more than two hours' sport.

One in ten (11%) said they had done no sport outside of school the previous week. However, nearly 50% said they did more than two hours of sport outside of school.

It seems some of the children would rather watch sport than take part. Two-thirds (66%) said they were interested in the London 2012 Olympics. That figure rises to 70% for those children living in London, and falls to 58% from respondents in Scotland.

Most of children who completed the survey (68%) had taken part in performances either at or out of school since they were 11 years old, either acting, singing, playing a musical instrument or dancing.

The BBC survey also wanted to know how children travel to school. Hardly any said they cycled to school - just 2%. Most said they got to school on foot (35%) and 33% used public transport; 27% said they were brought in by car.


Young girls laughing
The report gives an insight into the life of teens in Britain

Although most of the children surveyed (87%) were born in the UK and Ireland, more than one in five (22%) said they spoke two or three languages when talking to friends and family.

The second highest area of birth was elsewhere in Europe at 4%.

Most of the children said they live with their mum and/or dad (93% with mum, 70% with dad), just over 10% with their step-dad, 3% live with a step-mum and 4% live with a grandparent.

About the survey


Most computers will open PDF documents automatically, but you may need to download Adobe Acrobat Reader.

The survey was carried out in conjunction with the Royal Statistical Society Centre for Statistical Education (RSSCSE) at the University of Plymouth.

The online survey was open for six weeks and in that time 24,052 children from more than 300 schools completed up to 29 questions. The average response rate per school was 73, but figures varied widely from 1 to 784.

School Report
An annual project involving thousands of students in hundreds of UK schools
11 to 14-year-olds learn to be journalists throughout the year with the help of the BBC
Pupils choose the stories and broadcast them for real each March on News Day


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