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-up to the 2012 Olympics: Baseline Study A Non-technical Report for Schools
UEL Psychology & Institute for Research in Child Development
Principal Investigator: Virginia Lam
Acknowledgements: This study would not be possible without the support by the children and staff of participating schools; our thanks go to all headteachers for endorsing the fieldwork to take place in their schools, teachers and other staff for organising the classes, and pupils for being so helpful, patient and inspiring in our tasks so far. Foreword: This study, the first part of a three-year project, was funded by the University of East London’s (UEL) Research and Development Support unit. The project was borne out of the idea that momentous historical national events, such as the 2012 Olympics, may have lasting and significant impacts on children’s self-development, such as their sense of identity, knowledge about other countries, understanding of people from those countries and of course, their sport participation and competitive attitude, as a result of the exposure to a large-scale international sporting occasion. This is likely to be particularly pertinent to those from the multicultural communities in Newham, where most of the 2012 Games will be hosted. Indeed, the ‘Olympic effect’ was already felt when we approached the Newham schools by Summer Term 2011, when they were hosting Olympics-themed events and receiving sportsmen/women. We were extremely grateful that the staff and pupils were able to accommodate our visits among their busy schedules across that Summer Term, and the Autumn Term of 2011-2012. The purpose of our work was to establish baseline (or ‘pre-Olympics’) measures. This report summarises some of our key findings, in a non-technical way, from the schools in Newham alone where over 400 pupils completed all the tasks. As we count down to the Olympics on our doorstep this summer, we also look forward to re-visiting schools that took part in our baseline after the Games (planned for the Autumn Term 2012-2013) to explore whether and how the Olympic effect may have impacted on the pupils. I hope you will enjoy reading this report and perhaps sharing with the pupils. Considering that this research investigates and celebrates a salient aspect of child development, if you would like me, or a member of the research group, to come to your school to perform a visual presentation of our study to your staff and/or pupils, please contact me at the details below, and we would be delighted to disseminate. Meanwhile, if any member of staff or children would like to give their comments or raise any questions about this study, please feel free to contact us; as researchers we appreciate input and feedback given by the ‘stakeholders’ of our work; i.e., any school, child, parent and community group that give their time to help us. Virginia Lam, PhD CPsychol (Principal Investigator) This report was prepared and produced by/in: School of Psychology, University of East London, The Green, Stratford, LONDON E15 4LZ. Tel. (Dr Lam): 020 8223 2817 / 07731 780 996 / email: email@example.com
Background The ‘Olympic’ Backdrop The Olympics are seen as significant national events by the countries chosen to host them. The 2012 Games in London are no exception, and given the economic investments and the historical prestige of the occasion, it is important to ensure that we examined all potentially positive effects of the games. One potential legacy is the role that the 2012 Olympics may play in shaping and enhancing a sense of national identity in children of Great Britain. To cite the statement of the most prolific writer in this aspect of development, Professor Martyn Barrett—many major historical events, such as large-scale national sporting events, are seen as salient ‘emblems’ that can “embody the national group’s collective memories and serve as a reminder to group members of what they share…providing a sense of group cohesion and belonging that might otherwise be lacking..." (Barrett, 2005; p. 260). The event and its media coverage can emphasise or ‘concretise’ (through sport) the concept of ‘Britishness’ and draw together a collective identity across diverse groups in East London. On British Identity This theoretical starting point about the potential impact of significant national events on national identity is of interest not only to academics, but also to the public and practitioners. Not many realise that as a highly diverse society, English children (Barrett, 1996) and adults (Condor, 1996) see being ‘British’ as a highly unimportant part of their identity. Nationality is seen as less important than their gender, age, city and the ‘supra-national’ concept of ‘English’ by 6-12-year-olds (Barrett et al., 2003). Furthermore, British children show relatively less knowledge about foreign countries compared to children from most other European countries, such as Dutch (Johoda & Woerdenbagch, 1982) and Italian children (Barrett & Farroni, 1996). Interestingly, the strength of British identity and quantity of knowledge about countries vary as a function of children’s demographics, including ethnicity, gender (Lam & Smith, 2009), socioeconomic class (Rutland, 1998) and geographical (urban versus rural) or civic (home counties versus capitals) context (Bourchier et al., 2002). Boys, white and urban (particularly London) children report a stronger British identity whilst minority and urban children have greater knowledge about other countries. Children’s national identity and knowledge are often accompanied by feelings (affect) about those countries and their people, which usually exist by age 5-6 years (Barrett et al., 2003). However, strong favouritism towards their own national group is not prevalent among British children (Barrett, 2007). Similarly, actual ‘dislike’ towards specific foreign nation states or national groups is rare, except for those regarded as ‘traditional enemies’, such as the Germans (Barrett et al., 2003). Children derive their ideas about the groups about whom they have value-laden attitudes from a variety of sources, particularly the media (Barrett, 2005). Without these sources, children may be unbiased against (or indifferent towards) other countries and their people.
Identity and Sport Surprisingly little work has studied the link between national identity and sport, if many scholars, including British (Maguire, 2011), have discussed it. Ten years ago at the Nation and Sport conference it was argued (Wright, 2001) that “…sport played at all levels can contribute to our sense of national identity…in this context pride can be defended as an appropriate emotion, which can enhance sport as a human good and enrich our experience, whether we are watching or participating”. Further, “sport enjoyment can be “intensified and inspired by the national dimension”. Playing or just spectating can enhance the sense of pride in one’s country, and knowing that one is playing for or backing one’s country can also enhance one’s enjoyment in that sport. Dutch sociologists Vermeulen and Verweel (2009) explain that this enhancement is particularly strong in team sport in that social cohesion is promoted by bonding and bridging ‘social capital’ (benefits enabled by social interaction) between members to generate reciprocal contact and trust, what they refer to as ‘identity works’. Meanwhile, research shows that sport participation varies as a function of the young person’s ethnicity (Burdsey, 2006), culture (Tsang et al., 2005) or social class (Seabra et al., 2008; Vandendriessche et al., 2012). The sports played or spectated (football versus cricket, for example) by Asian youths are tied to their national-ethnic (English versus pan-Asian) identity, and East Asian youths have more goal-oriented motivation (versus enjoyment) to sport than European pupils. Lower-SES pupils, not surprisingly, play less sport altogether than their middle-class counterparts. Identity and Competitiveness Closely linked to sport is competitiveness, and most sports involve an element of competition. The area of identity to which this is relevant is the attitudinal aspects; affect or feelings towards other countries or people, particularly when they represent the ‘competitors’ in this context. Under normal (non-competitive) conditions, contact between groups can reduce prejudice towards the out-group (the group of which one is not a member), which includes refugees, and other-ethnic and disabled individuals (Cameron et al., 2006, 2007, 2011). However, if intergroup contact takes place under conditions where competition or threat (rather than cooperation or shared identity) is salient or perceived, negative attitudes can be created or worsen according to many prominent social psychologists (Brown & Hewstone, 2005; Pettigrew et al., 2011). Australian child psychologist Drew Nesdale (2001, 2003, 20007) reasons that children do not necessarily dislike their out-groups, but only under certain conditions, one of which being perceived threat or competition from out-groups. In experiments, it has been shown that under conditions of (real or potential) competition or conflict, children see members from their own group (in-group) as more similar to themselves and prefer them over those from an out-group. However, children differ in how much they tend to see others as competitors or events as competitive, not least by gender —boys tend to show a greater competitive attitude (Hibbard & Buhrmester, 2010).
This Project It is clear that the various aspects of children’s identity and group attitudes are intrinsically linked to other areas important for their growth and development, such as sport participation and competitiveness. It is also anticipated that as a significant lifechanging national event, the upcoming London Olympics will impact on these areas. This event offers a highly unique and valuable backdrop against which any potential positive (or even negative) changes may occur to these areas among the young that live nearby the event. Such changes may include a (short to medium term) ‘boost’ in their collective sense of national (British) identity, knowledge about foreign countries (through largely the greater media exposure but possibly also through the increase in opportunities for direct observation and contact during the Olympics) and as a result, more favourable attitudes towards them. At the same time, Olympic Games are also essentially a large-scale and highprofile competitive sporting occasion and hence (depending on a child’s competitive attitude; how competitively they view the events) certain children’s attitudes towards other countries and people (the ‘out-groups’) may worsen. Furthermore, exposure to sport (and a greater variety of sport activities) is and has been greater (both directly and indirectly through school and the media) in this past year and the current period. It is likely that sport participation will have increased as a result of the occasion. It is also possible that children’s increasing sense of British identity is closely tied to their (greater) sport participation since this period, considering the discussed relationship between national identity and sport participation. Finally, different children will have experienced this period and developed differently; national identity as well as sport participation and competitiveness by themselves differ by children’s demographics (such as gender, ethnicity and social class) as reviewed above. This ‘Olympic’ project is aimed at investigating the above potential outcomes resulting from the Games on local children and adolescents. To this end, we tested pupils in several Newham schools in the year before the Olympics (2011) measuring their level of: identification with Britain and with their respective ethnicity; knowledge about Britain and other countries (from three continents; see next section); attitudes towards people from Britain and the other countries; sport participation; competitive attitude. We also asked them questions regarding how they perceived the Olympics. These levels serve as the ‘pre-Olympic’ baseline measures and the pattern of which in some 400 Newham pupils who completed the task are presented in this report, so that schools have an idea ‘where’ their pupils are at in terms of their national identity, knowledge, group attitudes, sport participation and competitiveness. It is our objective to re-visit the schools with the aim of measuring their ‘postOlympic’ levels in Autumn Term of 2012, thus the months immediately following the summer Olympics, from the same pupils that took part in this baseline study in 2011. This way, we will be in a position to explore the impact that the Olympics would have made on those measures.
Fieldwork in Newham The sample We talked to close to 500 pupils from six state schools (four primary and two secondary) in Newham Borough, all within 3 miles from the Olympic site in Stratford. Due to various reasons (e.g., shortage of time, incomplete responses) the resultant sample consisted of 401 who completed the tasks. We purposefully tested year 1s, year 4s, year 7s and year 10s to explore age differences. Of the sample of 401, 25% (102) were aged 5-6 (year 1), 32% (130) 8-9 (year 4), 20% (80) 11-12, and 22% (89) 14-15 (year 10) at the time of testing (Summer Term 2011-2; Autumn Term 2012-3). There was a roughly equal gender split (48% male vs. 52% female) and the extremely ethnic diverse sample consisted of (according to Census 2011’s criteria): 25% (100) ‘white’, 30% (119) ‘black’, 37% (150) ‘Asian’ and 8% (32) ‘mixed race’. Of the white sub-sample, two-thirds were ‘other white European’ (with more Lithuanians than other sub-groups), with the rest being ‘white English, Scottish, Irish and Welsh’. The majority (65%) of the black sub-sample was of African descent; the others were Caribbean and ‘other black’) and about half of the Asian sub-sample self-categorised as Bangladeshi (the others Pakistani, Indian and ‘other Asian’). The sample reported speaking over 40 languages apart from English, with the most spoken being Bengali, followed by Urdu, Tamil and Lithuanian. Around 63% were British-born (47% of white vs. 70% black, 68% Asian, 75% mixed race/other), with those foreign-born reporting that they had lived in Britain between one and fifteen (the average was five) years. Table 1. Sample age/year group, ethnic and socio-economic demographics Age (years) % Ethnicity (Census) % SES (WHO) % 5-6 (year 1) 25.4 White 24.9 Lower 44.6 8-9 (year 4) 32.4 Black 29.7 Middle 39.8 11-12 (year 7) 20.0 Asian 37.4 Higher 16.6 14-15 (year 10) 22.2 Mixed/other 8.0 We asked children a few questions which indicate their socio-economic status (SES) in the form of family affluence as this aspect of their lives could influence their identity and sport participation not least (as reviewed in the last section). A set of four short and simple questions which children from 5 years can comprehend and answer together make up what is called the ‘family affluence scale’ (FAS), devised by World Health Organisation (Currie et al., 2008; v. II). Such classifications have shown very high associations with GDP, wealth and health status in the large-scale studies cited. The four questions ask children about their family/home situation: Do they have their own bedroom (score 0-1); Does their home have a computer with internet connection (0-1); How many cars\vehicles does their family own (0-2); How many times has their family gone on holiday in the last year (0-3). The aggregate scale (0-7) enables most samples to be split into three SES (West et al., 2010): lower (0-3) 45% (175); middle (4-5) 39% (152); higher (6-7) 17% (65); in the current sample. It is worth noting that more Asian pupils (23% vs. 10-15%) fell into the higher SES than the other groups.
Research Materials We ran the same set of materials with all the pupils tested; the only difference lay in whether questions and answers were asked and given by the researchers and children verbally in a one-to-one interview format (in the case of primary schools) or whether adolescents wrote their answers in a booklet themselves in a questionnaire format (secondary schools). The format can influence completion rates together with pupils’ age (a lower proportion of the Year 7 pupils returned completed booklets than the older Year 10s in this sample). A sample of the materials (primary in Appendix A; secondary in Appendix B) is attached to this report. Apart from asking for demographic information above, our research materials were an amalgamation of standardised measures adapted from published work that had tried and tested them over the last 10 years (so that we could obtain statistically reliable datasets). These items and scales measured: British identity; ethnic identity; knowledge about Britain and foreign countries; attitudes to people from the countries (the ‘Britishness’ Centenary Project; by Barrett, 2000; reviewed in 2005, 2007, 2011); sport participation (SportsLinx Project; Taylor et al., 2004); and competitive attitudes (Hibbard & Buhrmester, 2010; adapted Rychman’s, 1990, for use with adolescents). As the measures involved multiple-choice and scaled materials, with younger (primary) pupils, props (such as cards and drawings; see below for examples) were used to help their engagement. All pupils were shown a world map and flags for the knowledge of country questions (geographical knowledge: location of countries; and emblematic knowledge: national flags). Apart from Britain, the foreign countries were France, Germany, United States of America, India and China—these were selected, from a larger range, after our pilot study using open-ended questions had found that children knew relatively more about them while at the same time they were relatively salient countries across different continents. Examples of word cards used with primary-aged children for the measure ‘relatively subjective importance of self-descriptors’: Q: “You could use many things to describe yourself, such as…, but if you could only choose one of these four descriptions to describe yourself because it was the most important to you, which one would it be?”
Q: “Which one is the next most important?” Q: “Which one is the next most important?” [Take away card once selected for each question and tick in booklet; scale 1-4.]
Examples of cards used with primary-aged children for the measure self-description: Q: “Imagine you were on holiday abroad and somebody there asked you ‘where are you from?’, what would you say?” (last card used only if relevant) London England Britain UK Europe Lithuania
[Researcher to tick in booklet; categorical measure.] Examples of drawings used with primary-aged children for the sub-scales ‘pride’ and ‘feeling’ for the measure of British identity: Q: “Which one of these best describes you?”
“little bit British”
“not British at all”
[Researcher to tick in booklet; scale 1-4.] Q: “How do you feel about being British?”
“very happy” “quite happy” “not happy nor sad” “quite sad” [Researcher to tick in booklet; scale 1-5.]
An example of drawings used with primary-aged children for sub-scales of measure beliefs about people from different countries: Q: “How many people from … (country) do you think are … (from a set of adjectives such as friendly/unfriendly, polite/rude, etc.)?”
“none of them” “a few of them” “half of them” [Researcher to tick in booklet; scale 1-5.]
“most of them” “all of them”
Examples of the drawings used for measure knowledge (geography and emblems):
Q: “You see the coloured places on this map/these flags. Which one is…?”
[Researcher to tick in booklet; correct/incorrect.] An example of drawings used with primary-aged children for the sub-scale ‘recent participation’ of the measure sport participation: Q: “What sport do you play? How often have you played…this last week?”
“most days” “two or three times” “just once”
[Researcher to tick in booklet; scale 1-5.] An example of drawings used with primary-aged children for sub-scales of measure competitive attitude: Q: “How true is what I am saying about you (e.g., ‘winning in competition makes me feel powerful’, ‘I don’t see friends and family as my competitors’).
“always true” “often true”
“not really true”
[Researcher to tick in booklet; scale 1-5.]
Results Relative Subjective Importance of: British/Ethnicity/Gender/Age Pupils considered the relative importance of the four concepts to themselves. Overall, the sample on the whole considered their ethnicity to be the most important (mean score 3.14 on a scale of 1-4) which was much more than gender (mean 2.46), age (2.37) and British (2.02). However the differences between the importance levels of these descriptors were not even across the sample. There were age, birthplace as well as SES variations in how children and adolescents considered these concepts. Figure 1 gives indications of such variations. Our statistical tests showed that 8-9-year-olds (year 4) considered being British to be more important than other ages, particularly the 14-15-year-olds (year 10). British-born pupils considered being British to be more important than their non-British-born counterparts, who in turn considered ethnicity to be more important. Interestingly, higher-SES pupils considered British to be more important than lower- and middle-SES pupils, the latter of which considered ethnicity to be more important.
Figure 1. Relative importance of British/ethnicity/gender/age by age, birthplace, SES
Self-description ‘Where are you from?’ Responding to what they would say if asked by a stranger while on holiday abroad, most pupils chose London (over 40%, which was statistically much higher than the other answers; see figure 2); Britain was the least popular choice. Pupils’ responses however differed by their background.
15.4% 6.3% 41.3%
Figure 2. Sample’s responses to the ‘Where are you from’ on holiday question. Shown in figure 3 are the percentage responses to the question by the pupils’ demographics: age, ethnicity, gender, birthplace and SES. In terms of age variation, it can be seen that ‘England’ was a relatively popular second choice after ‘London’, except for the 14-15-year-olds for whom it was less popular than ‘other’ (country of origin outside of Europe), even though it is not the case that there were more nonBritish-born or ethnic minority children from year 10 in this sample. In terms of ethnic variations, white pupils were less likely than other ethnic groups to respond London and (to a lesser extent) England, but more likely to say Europe, and ‘other’ (versus black and Asian pupils). Conversely, Asian pupils were most likely to choose London and UK and least likely Europe and other. In terms of gender differences, London was a more popular choice for girls than boys, more of whom chose UK as their response than girls did. Unsurprisingly more of the non-British-born pupils answered Europe and other and more of their British-born counterparts chose London and England. Interestingly more of the lower-SES pupils answered England than higher-SES pupils, who were more likely than both lower- and middle-SES pupils to select the two ‘super-national’ choices of Britain and UK and less likely to pick ‘other’.
Figure 3. Responses to ‘Where are you from?’ by age, ethnicity, gender, birthplace and SES.
British Identity and Ethnic Identity We used equivalent sets of scales (Barrett’s ‘strength of identification scales, SoIS; 2007) to measure the extent to which children and adolescents identified with their nationality (British) and ethnicity. The SoIS has five sub-scales by components: identification (‘how British’/relevant ethnicity); pride (‘how proud’); importance (‘how important’ is being British/member of ethnic group); feeling (‘how do you feel’ about being British/relevant ethnic group membership); internalisation (‘how would you feel’ if someone said something bad about British people/ethnic group). For both identities we found variations by age and birthplace, even though the pattern of variation differs between the two. Figure 4 shows that British identity by all its components ‘peaked’ (strongest levels) at age 8-9 years before a decline towards adolescence (statistically, the levels at 8-9 years did differ from those at other ages). On the other hand, the strength of ethnic identity remained relatively stable with age (indeed no statistical differences between the age groups) and was generally higher than that of British identity (statistical tests confirmed it).
Figure 4. Level of British and ethnic identity: five components by age.
Figure 5. Level of British and ethnic identity: five components by birthplace. Figure 5 shows that the pattern of British and ethnic identity varied by pupils’ birthplace in the opposite directions: British-born pupils reported higher levels on all components of British identity than non-British-born pupils, who in contrast reported higher levels of ethnic identity. Unexpectedly, we found ethnic variations in the level of ethnic identification; white pupils had higher levels than the other ethnic groups.
Figure 6. Level of ethnic identification by pupils’ ethnicity
Knowledge about Countries In terms of knowledge, all pupils attempted a geographical (map locations of countries) and emblematic (identification of national flags) knowledge task. Figure 7 displays that the sample performed better on the flags than they did on the map task. It is also worth noting that, in the latter, pupils located Britain and USA best and were more familiar with the two Asian countries than the European ones.
Figure 7. Sample’s performance on countries’ geography (map) and emblems (flag). There are age variations in performance, particularly in countries’ locations. Figure 8 shows that performance rose with age until age 11-12 years, then a slight decline (statistical tests confirmed differences between 11-12 vs. 5-6 and 8-9 years only). There were wider differences between performances on different countries in the map task, but in both tasks performance on Britain improved with age such that at 5-6 years it was one of the least known, but by 8-9 years it was the best known.
Flags Map Figure 8. Per cent correct on geographic and emblematic knowledge by pupils’ age.
The secondary school sub-sample did one further task on their knowledge of the countries’ capitals (open-ended question) as ‘civic knowledge’. The performance on this task differed by age. Figure 8 shows that the older 14-15-year-olds did better generally than their younger counterparts. It is also clear that most pupils performed better on Britain and France than they did the other countries, particularly America— surprisingly (most who got wrong answered ‘New York’ rather than Washington).
Figure 8. Per cent correct on civic knowledge (capitals) by pupils’ age. We also asked pupils an open-ended question about each country; ‘what else’ they could tell us about it. Not all gave an answer (particularly younger/primary-aged children) thus sub-sample-based patterns cannot be reliably analysed. However, the sample varied considerably in their focus between the countries. We categorised the first answer according to such focus. For instance, if a child described characteristics of a people (such as “they look a bit different” or literally “They are French”), the case was classified as ‘people’. Figure 9 shows categories with notable contrasts between countries: Germany received the most comments on its history (World War II); China on its industry (as a manufacturer); France on its landmarks (‘Eiffel Tower’); America on politics (President Obama); India on religions; France, India and Chinese on food. Pupils voiced the most opinions on Britain (that they ‘like’ or ‘love’ (living in) it).
Figure 9. Categories of spontaneous responses about the six countries.
Attitudes towards People from Different Countries After giving their knowledge of the countries, children and adolescents were asked to rate their liking for, and beliefs about, the people from these countries. For the former, children rated on a scale (1-5; ‘dislike them a lot’ to ‘like them a lot’). For the latter, they rated the approximate number of people from each country that carry certain characteristics (a range of adjectives including ‘friendly’, ‘polite’, ‘hardworking’ and so on and their opposite; scale 1-5 ‘none of them’ to ‘all of them’). The higher the composite score, the more positive pupils were about the national group. Liking
Figure 10. Positivity of beliefs about and liking towards people from six countries by pupils’ age. Figure 10 shows that at the youngest age, 5-6 years, children did not seem to differentiate between the nationalities in their beliefs as well as liking (statistical tests confirmed that there were no differences in both measures at this age). From age 89, differences emerged in both though in the case of beliefs the differences widened towards adolescence whereas for liking the differences widened and then converged again at age 14-15 (indeed, statistical tests confirmed that there were no differences between liking for different nationalities at this age). It is also worth noting that although the British were initially positive relative to other nationalities, at age 5-6, this positivity dropped continuously to become one of the least positively rated groups. However the British remained one of the most liked. On the other hand, the Germans were one of the least positively rated groups and its liking matches that pattern whereas the Chinese, though initially rated least positively as well as least liked, became the most positively rated and one of the most liked. In fact the pattern of beliefs and liking for most of the nationalities, except Britain, seem to go roughly in the same direction. Hence, despite children and adolescents having increasingly less ‘far from ideal’ beliefs about their national in-group, the British, they remained affectively favourable towards them.
Competitive Attitude and Sport Participation When measuring competitive attitude, we asked pupils to rate ten statements describing competitive traits (or the opposite) in terms of how far these reflected their character; the higher the composite score, the more competitive. The initial question regarding sport participation asked pupils how often (scale 1-5; ‘never’ to ‘every day’) they played sport over the past year or so. For both measures, we found variation by age in that they fall with age after 8-9 years (see figure 11; statistical tests confirmed that 11-12 and 14-15 years differed from 5-6 and 8-9 years). It seems that secondary pupils were less competitive and did less sport than their primary-aged counterparts. No other between-group differences were found on these two measures.
Figure 11. Competitive attitude and general sport participation by pupils’ age. Children were asked to name up to three sports that they played. Although the majority (55%) nominated just one (average no. sports nominated 1.6), over 30 sport activities were given. The popularity of them clearly differed. For analytical purposes, the ‘top five’, nominated by over 10 per cent of pupils, were brought forward: football (47%); running (29%); basketball (14%); tennis (13%); cricket (12%). The popularity of those top five sport activities differed by pupils’ age, gender and ethnicity. Figure 11 shows that football initially had the same level of popularity as running at age 5-6, but from age 8-9 it was far more popular than the other four activities, particularly at age 14-15. It is also worth noting that all the activities had a rise in popularity towards secondary school (age 11-12; year 7) followed by a fall at age 14-15 (year 10). Unsurprisingly, football was rather more popular among boys compared with girls (statistical tests confirmed so). The same pattern, if not to the same extent, was true for basketball and cricket; instead, more girls nominated running than boys did. It is clear that more Asian pupils nominated cricket (confirmed statistically), but they were less likely to report playing basketball than the other ethnic groups.
Figure 11. Per cent nominating top five sports by pupils’ age, gender and ethnicity. For each nominated sport activity, pupils were asked about their ‘generic’ and ‘recent’ participation (how often do you ‘normally’ play; how often have you played it ‘this last week’). Studies have often done this as children tend to over-report activity level on a generic basis. Adding a ‘timeline’ may gauge their ‘actual’ participation. A pattern was found in that this discrepancy between generic and recent participation (first named sport) was particularly pronounced in the lower-SES pupils (figure 12).
Figure 12. Generic (normal) vs. recent (last week) sport participation by pupils’ SES.
Summary and Suggestions From this pre-Olympic study of just over 400 pupils, we have established a set of initial findings with regards to their identity, knowledge about countries, attitudes to their people, competitive attitude and sport participation. These findings help to build up a picture about Newham children’s and adolescents’ self-development, intergroup perception and activity level in the run-up to the London Olympics. A summary of the key findings, and some suggestions to explain and build on them, are as follows. ‘Britain’ or being ‘British’ is not important generally but it depends on who is asked When asked to compare it with their age, gender and ethnicity, the sample on the whole felt that being British is the least important identity to describe themselves. Britain is also the least likely answer compared with London, England, UK, and even Europe and other countries of origin, when they were asked “where are you from” in a hypothetical situation. This is nothing new however as previous studies (reviewed by Barrett, 2005, 2007) repeatedly found it. Yet some children may feel more ‘British’ than others; those going towards middle childhood (age 8-9 onwards); those born in Britain (versus those born outside); those of higher SES (who also favoured ‘Britain’ more than those of lower and middle SES). Still, results suggest that the strength of British identity would fall gradually into later childhood and adolescence, unlike that of ethnic identity which would remain stable and stronger than British identity. While the reason for British-born pupils having stronger British identity would be obvious, and the strength of national identity increased until 8, it is unclear how in this sample it then decreased towards adolescence (in previous studies it increased through development). One possibility is the unique composition of the sample; more half of the ‘white’ pupils were in fact non-British-born (versus 25-32% of other ethnic groups) who were more likely to favour Europe and other countries and who showed stronger ethnic identification than the other ethnic group— unlike in previous studies. More of the Asian pupils (who made a slight majority in the sample) compared with the other ethnic groups fell into the higher SES. However as Asian pupils did not favour Britain or being British more than the other ethnic groups, the question is why children and adolescents with greater family affluence tend to favour Britain and rate being British as more important than those with less family affluence. An examination of other results indicates that those with less affluence also considered their ethnicity to be more important and were more likely to think of Europe and other countries as where they were ‘from’, though it is not the case that more of the less affluent pupils were non-British-born. It might be that, in diverse communities, like Newham or East London, families with less affluence (even with British-born children) are less settled in Britain and look to their ethnic community or more distant connections for rapport. Those with more British-based resources feel more settled thus greater attachment to this country. The potential link between family affluence and ‘belongingness’ to a country is worthy of more investigation in our further work in this field.
Children know America as well as they do Britain, just not its capital! They learn a lot in early secondary school but stop there and take in popular media information In terms of geographic (map locations of countries) and emblematic (national flags) knowledge the pupils did perform nearly as well on America as they did Britain. On the civic (capitals) knowledge however they performed second worst on America as many assumed that its capital was New York; this could be because they receive more information through the media about this city as a commercial hub of the USA. Pupils also performed better on the flags than the map task, possibly as geographic information in the form of spatial representations is acquired later and presents more challenge as it involves abstract thinking (representing space and distance on a two dimensional plane) learnt through education (versus the vivid symbols such as flags to which they might have greater exposure. Knowledge of capitals, nevertheless, got better with age; 14-15-year-olds performed better than 11-12-year-olds, in particular on other countries, perhaps a result of learning from school as well as other sources. There was a gradual increase in both geographic and emblematic knowledge with age until 11-12 years (year 7); however it halted there (and in some cases even fell towards 14-15 years; year 10). It might be that, as above discussed, pupils learn about other countries in school, but the increase in knowledge holds only as long as they take the relevant subjects (Geography and History are compulsory until year 9). It would be worth investigating more systematically the link between such knowledge and engagement with those subjects. Finally, from pupils’ spontaneous comments to what else they knew about the countries, it seems that children and adolescents tend to focus on what they acquire, likely from the media, ‘stereotypic’ information about countries, their people, practice and history. These are highly well-known information that one would imagine adults would also volunteer if asked and suggest that, like adults, children and adolescents tend to absorb the most salient, or high-profile, information from their environment. Young children do not think and feel differently about different nationalities but start by late childhood and will like their own more even if they don’t think highly of them The results show that, on both positivity of beliefs and liking, the youngest age group, 5-6-year-olds, did not differ in their responses they gave to different countries. Then from 8-9 years, different patterns emerged from the two measures. Whilst their beliefs and liking tended to go in the same direction for most nationalities (the more positive pupils’ beliefs were about a group the more they liked them), it did not apply to the British. Beliefs about them became less positive with age, but they remained one of the most liked group. The preference for the national ‘in-group’ over others is in line with that in other studies (Barrett, 2005, 2007) have found, if the preference in this study is in fact to a lesser extent. Promisingly, though the oldest adolescents had similar liking for the different nationalities (i.e., lack of preference or prejudice) even though they held different beliefs about them.
As children get older, they become less competitive and do less sport even though they do a greater variety but that depends on their gender, ethnicity and affluence In terms of their competitive attitude and sport participation in general, pupils in the secondary ages (particularly the 14-15-year group) reported lower levels than their younger primary-age counterparts. This pattern is not new (Taylor et al., 2004); school-life becomes more academic as older children go up the years through their education working towards public examinations and qualifications, leaving less time for playing sport. The fall in competitive attitude may be partly to do with an increase in social desirability (it is undesirable to be seen as competitive), or a genuine fall in general competitiveness as abilities and interests diverge. It would be fascinating to investigate further links between generic and specific (e.g., sporting) competitiveness and sport participation. Despite the lower level of participation, the variety of sport activities seems to increase with age; more of the secondary-aged pupils reported engagement with the ‘top five’ sports than their primary-aged counterparts. However, reported participation among the five is highly uneven by secondary school; at first, running was as popular as football at age 5-6, but from 8-9 years football became considerably more so than the other activities and by 14-15 years it was two to three times more popular as any other activity. While this suggests the overwhelming popularity of football as the key national sport, the trend might not apply to all children; not least girls were much less involved with football than boys were, and they also reportedly played less basketball and cricket than boys did. Some ethnic groups may also be partial to some activities over others; Asian pupils reported far more participation in cricket, which goes in line with the popularity of this sport in and its international prestige tied to these children’s and adolescents’ ancestry in the Indian sub-continent. A less promising outlook is the finding that pupils with lower family affluence had the greatest discrepancy between their levels of ‘general’ reported participation and recent ‘actual’ participation in sport. Although this discrepancy applied to all SES groups (children tend to over-report on sport participation as it is a desirable trait— they would like to play sport), its greater extent among the lower strata may indicate that children and adolescents with fewer family-income-related resources get to play less sport in reality than they would like to or assume that they do. More investigation is required to explore the nature and causes of this discrepancy in certain sectors of the community as this would be of interest to schools, sport clubs, children’s services and councils, as providers of sport and physical activities and facilities for the young, considering the importance of access to these resources for their well-being.
Looking to the Future—After the London Olympics This study, as a baseline study, has drawn up a picture of the development in some of Newham’s pupils in terms of their identity, knowledge, group understanding in relation to countries, and in their sport participation and competitive attitude, in the year running up to the 2012 Olympics. Looking ahead to the event on our doorsteps, it offers a highly unique opportunity to explore whether such a national phenomenon that is happening at such a close proximity to this community will make an impact on the pupils. Seeing that Britain and being British has been relatively unimportant, will this high-profile national event raise their salience? Will the pupils learn more about their own and foreign countries through this event? Will they have more favourable beliefs about and liking towards other nations because of this or will it be the reverse with the Olympics being a competitive event? Then will their competitive attitude see an increase? Will their sport participation also see an increase as a result? The follow-up study of this project will give us the unprecedented opportunity to examine answers to the above questions, which reflect the potentially long-lasting impact of the Games on children’s and adolescents’ psychological development and physical well-being. As schools around the Olympic sites and capital prepare for this event in their various ways, we look forward to capturing this phenomenon and how it may impact on the young of its nearby communities. References
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