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Majority of teachers 'are observing body image concerns among students'

18/07/2017 Joanna

Secondary school teachers are widely worried about their pupils' body image concerns, according to a new industry survey.

The National Union of Teachers surveyed 492 secondary school teachers' views on their pupils' confidence in their body image, finding that 98 per cent said that some or more of their students are affected by worries about how they look, including 38 per cent who said that "nearly all" of their students are affected.

Moreover, 98 per cent of teachers said some or more of their students are affected by a societal pressure to look a certain way, while 97 per cent believe that pupils are affected by sexist or stereotypical comments. Additionally, 64 per cent of teachers believe that girls are affected more strongly by body image issues than boys.

According to the report, these self-esteem problems are having a number of serious repercussions, with 82 per cent of teachers reporting that some or more of their pupils are opting out of physical activities such as swimming, while 93 per cent said at least some of their students are affected by eating disorders.

Pointing to negative influences from the media as a potential cause of these problems, the respondents called for changes to education policy to help tackle them, including a broader curriculum and a new focus on personal, social and health education.

Kevin Courtney, general secretary of the National Union of Teachers, said: "Teachers identified that young people are looking to a narrow range of celebrities as role models. This snapshot survey identifies the work we need to do to help young people recognise that we come in all shapes, sizes and ages, and to break down the stereotypes about appearances which flow from sexism and racism."

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