Research excellence at the University of Kent


University helps Kent school children research and evaluate happiness

Dr Lindsey CameronChildren in three Kent primary schools are this week (4-8 November) finding out how to investigate what makes them happy as part of a University project to help them develop research skills.

The project, entitled How to make a happy school, is being run by Dr Lindsey Cameron, of the University's School of Psychology. It is taking place during national Festival of Social Science week, organised annually by the Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC).

The Kent project started with around 113 children from the three primary schools learning about why happiness is important - and how scientists measure it - at a workshop at the University's Canterbury campus.

The children will then use their new skills in their respective schools to create their own surveys to find out what makes their classmates happy. They will then work with Kent-based arts organisation People United and artist Tracey Falcon to find creative ways to present their findings to the whole school.

A similar project two years ago found that when the children were asked what made them happy, they came up with a list that included Fridays, fish and chip lunches and family and friends.

Dr Cameron, a child development specialist and lecturer in Developmental Psychology, said: 'A survey by UNICEF in 2007 placed Britain near the bottom of league tables for well-being, and happiness is an important part of well-being. I think it’s important therefore that we find out more about what makes young people happy, and who better to investigate this than young people themselves.

‘When this project took place last year during the Festival we asked children to investigate what made them and their classmates happy and we discovered, perhaps surprisingly, that material things were rarely mentioned.

'Rather, it was spending time with family and friends, having fun and enjoying small things, such as eating fish and chips for school lunch or looking forward to Fridays.'

Dr Cameron now hopes to roll out her approach with schools across the country by producing a ‘How to make schools happy’ toolkit so that they can use social science methods such as questionnaires to explore happiness in their own schools.

She added: 'Although this is a very small scale project, I think it is very useful for parents to listen to their children’s own take on happiness, and not underestimate how much children value time spent with family and friends.

'For busy parents, this may be a difficult thing to hear but it’s worth asking ourselves sometimes whether that five minutes spent hoovering or checking Facebook might be better spent having fun with our children.'


Story published at 2:17pm 7 November 2013

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Last Updated: 09/05/2013