‘Survivor generation' of young people are optimistic about post-pandemic life, Children's Comissioner says

Children in England are a “survivor generation” who remain optimistic about the future despite the effects of the pandemic, a landmark survey has found. 

Dame Rachel de Souza, the Children’s Commissioner for England, said young people were not a “lost generation” or “snowflakes”, but a “sleeves‑up, pragmatic generation” determined to succeed after Covid. 

Earlier this year, Dame Rachel launched a ‘Big Ask’ survey about how young people had been affected by the pandemic. It received responses from 557,077 children, making it the largest survey of its kind ever conducted. 

It found that children in England are generally happy and optimistic, but with specific concerns and worries. 

Seventy-one per cent of nine to 17-year-olds and 94 per cent of 6 to 8 year-olds are happy with their life overall, though 9 per cent of nine to 17 year olds do not think they will have a better life than their parents.  

Dame Rachel said that irrespective of ethnicity, deprivation and vulnerability, the top things children care about are the same: their mental and physical health, things to do in their local area, life at school and progress in education.  

Future careers was a key focus, with 69 per cent of 9-17 year olds saying having a good job was one of their main priorities. 

The survey also found a deep-seated commitment to the environment – the second most common future worry, with 39 per cent of 9-17 year olds saying it was one of their main priorities and concerns for the future. 

While most children are happy with their life overall, girls twice were likely to be unhappy with their mental health than boys. Children unhappy with their family life were also nine times more likely to be unhappy with life overall. 

In the wake of the survey, Dame Rachel called for a “comprehensive” education catch-up package for schools, as well as an expansion of mental health support and stronger safeguarding for children on social media. 

She said: “If adults are to learn one thing from this report, it should be as follows. This is not a ‘snowflake generation.’ It is a heroic generation.  

“A generation of children who are veterans of a global crisis. They have seen how colossally frightening life can be, far too young, and have made a lot of sacrifices. But they have endured, and are emerging stronger and prematurely wise. Bruised, yes, and in many cases seriously vulnerable, but for the most part, happy, optimistic, and determined. 

“They are a survivor generation – a sleeves‑up, pragmatic generation, with civic‑minded aspirations.” 

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