Schoolchildren who are ‘given out to’ often are more likely to lose self-confidence

ESRI study shows young people who receive praise more likely to do better at second level

Schoolchildren who are frequently reprimanded by teachers are much more likely to lose self-confidence in their ability to do schoolwork, new research shows. Photo: iStock

Schoolchildren who are frequently reprimanded by teachers are much more likely to lose self-confidence in their ability to do schoolwork, new research shows. Photo: iStock

 

Schoolchildren who are frequently “given out to” or reprimanded by teachers are much more likely to lose self-confidence in their ability to do schoolwork, new research shows.

By contrast, young people who receive frequent praise or positive feedback from their teachers settle into secondary school much better .

It is one of a series of findings from a major ESRI study which examines the experiences of thousands of young people who have made the transition from primary to secondary school.

It finds that a dip in student engagement during second year reinforces the case for junior cycle reform and the use of a broader repertoire of teaching and assessment methods to engage young people.

The report also highlights the importance of a more positive school climate and advocates a move away from the use of more negative sanctions which appear to further alienate young people.

The study,Off to a Good Start?, is based on interviews conducted with more than 7,400 schoolchildren when they were nine and followed then up when they were 13. Their parents were also interviewed, while their principals and teachers completed questionnaires.

Among its findings are that young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are more likely to face difficulties making the transition from primary to secondary school.

While most young people settle well into second level, around a fifth are anxious about making new friends and miss their primary school friends.

Young people become less confident about their own academic abilities as they move into second-level education and face new academic demands.

Girls experience greater transition difficulties than boys, while some of the biggest issues are faced by children from disadvantaged backgrounds and young people with special educational needs.

Overall, most 13 years olds are broadly positive about school with 66 per cent of girls and 57 per cent of boys stating that they like school “very much” or “quite a bit’”.

It finds that young people have fewer transition difficulties if they have more friends and if they have better communication with their parents, the research shows.

A key finding is that children’s experience of primary school sets the tone for how they feel about second level.

For example, young people who were already negative about school, their teachers and school subjects at the age of nine were more likely to be negative about their experiences within second-level education.

Children who were better at maths at the age of nine, in particular, were more likely to settle into second-level education more easily.

ESRI professor Emer Smyth, the author of Off to a Good Start?, said the literacy and numeracy skills children receive at primary level are key to succeeding at second-level.

“ Children can disengage from school and their school subjects even at this early stage, making it difficult to reengage them later on,” she said.

She said early experience of maths emerges as particularly important, pointing to the potential value in rethinking approaches to maths teaching at primary level to enhance interest and skills.

The findings also point to challenges in ensuring the inclusion of young people with special educational needs in mainstream second-level schools.

Children with special needs are much more likely than their peers to have negative attitudes to school, academic self-image and engagement with school subjects.

It also notes that the majority of students from poorer backgrounds who feature in the report do not attend Deis, or disadvantaged backgrounds.

It says this highlights the importance of providing some assistance for disadvantaged groups across all schools.

A dip in student engagement during second year also reinforces the case for junior cycle reform and for the use of a broader repertoire of teaching and assessment methods to engage young people, the report finds.