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What's making our 10-year-old children so sad?

Why is my 10-year-old so unhappy ? I don't know. I don't know if it's her school, her hormones or her home life.

But now I know she's not alone. The Education Research Centre recently reported that Irish 10-year-olds are more likely to be unhappy at school than children in a wide range of countries surveyed.

This is very bad news. Because being unhappy at school at the age of 10 can lead to children switching off education completely and even dropping out later on.

The ERC report doesn't tell us why our kids are unhappier at school than their international peers. And that silence is nearly the most worrying part of it.

We know are children are better-off than those in less developed countries. Our schools are smaller and our parents are more involved.

Our kids feel safer at school than children in most countries and while bullying is a serious problem, it is less of a problem in Ireland than elsewhere.

So why are so many of our children unhappy?

Could it be because we have one of the highest pupil/teacher ratios among developed countries? That has to make it harder for teachers to engage the kids and zoom in on problems.

In recent years that ratio has been going up and there has to be an effort to work it down again because there's such a danger of children getting lost.

Particularly if there are special needs kids in the classroom. We score very badly when it comes to the impact of special needs on the other children.


Lots of children don't have their special needs diagnosed until well after they've wrecked the head of their teachers. Then there aren't enough special needs assistants.

But even with assistants, the classes are just too big to be a good place for kids with issues.

We have to ask some of the same questions which came up in the drama over creches.

Are the classes just too big for teachers to form relationships with the children?

And are teachers properly trained for today's children? Are they trained to understand kids, respect them, like them?

Do they know how to make a classroom come alive, or are they stuck "chalking and talking", no matter how bored the kids are?

Why are 37pc of 10-year-old boys in Ireland likely to be totally uninterested in school? Why are girls seven times more likely to like school than boys? When in most other countries nearly as many boys as girls like school?

We are failing many of our children, but we are failing our boys most. Why is that? Because boys need smaller classes and a different approach to teaching, with more action and less reading and writing?

I don't have the answers. I'm only a parent.

I can try to deal with my end of the story, the fact that the ERC report shows Irish 10-year-olds are coming into school too tired to learn is often because they have TVs and computers in their bedrooms.

And very often haven't had a proper breakfast.


OK, disadvantage comes into those statistics, but mostly they're down to not bothering. We're like parents in the US and Australia, sitting back with a few tinnies and hoping the children will stay out of our faces.

And that's easy to do when you live in a society which doesn't value child-rearing because it doesn't generate ready cash.

But this report shines a searching light on our schools too. It shows that many of them are safe places in which children don't kick up too often.

But where the minds of too many 10-year-olds are elsewhere most of the time. And where the hearts of too many 10-year-olds are breaking.

And if that doesn't constitute an emergency I don't know what does.