YMCA Birmingham supports new body confidence school toolkit

January 17, 2017

Research shows almost a third of 11 to 16 year old’s isolate themselves because of body image anxiety

YMCA Birmingham is supporting a new body confidence campaign toolkit for schools that teaches young people about feeling comfortable with their bodies, as new research reveals almost a third of secondary school pupils (30%) isolate themselves from activities due to body image anxiety.

Somebody Like Me, a national research report launched today by the Be Real Campaign for body confidence, has revealed the scale and damaging impact that low body confidence is having on young people’s lives.

Researchers spoke to more than 2,000 secondary school pupils aged 11 to 16 years old and found that more than half (52%) regularly worried about how they look while nearly two thirds (63%) said what others think of their looks is important to them. In addition, 36% were willing to do ‘whatever it takes to look good’.

The report also highlights the vital part schools have to play in tackling body image anxiety, as three quarters of young people (76%) who learned about body confidence as part of their curriculum said it made them feel more positive about themselves. However, despite this, less than half of young people surveyed (48%) said they had learned about the issue in the classroom.

Body Confidence Campaign Toolkit for Schools

On the back of today’s findings, the Be Real Campaign, founded by YMCA and Dove [2], has launched a new Body Confidence Campaign Toolkit for Schools. Available to download for all secondary schools across the country, the pack provides lesson guidance, advice and materials to help teachers educate their pupils about body image.

YMCA Birmingham which works with hundreds of children and young people every year, is urging local schools to get behind the Be Real Campaign and use the toolkit to help young people tackle body image anxiety.

Alan Fraser, YMCA Birmingham Chief Executive, said:

“The research released today shows how harmful body image anxiety can be for secondary school pupils as young as 11 years old.

“Young people tell us that they face increasing pressures to conform to the unrealistic beauty standards they see in the media and through celebrity culture.

“Evidence shows that schools are uniquely placed to support young people to hold positive discussions around body image with their peers and help reduce the negative impact low body confidence can have. We urge all local schools to help young people be confident with their bodies and build their self-esteem by using the toolkit so they grow into healthy adults.”

Other key findings from the Be Real Campaign’s Somebody Like Me research include:

  • Four in five young people surveyed (79%) said that how they look is important to them
  • Almost three in five respondents (57%) have or would consider going on a diet to change the way they look
  • One in 10 (10%) would consider having cosmetic surgery to change the way they look
  • Almost a fifth of teachers (18%) surveyed said they did not feel confident talking about body confidence with their pupils.

The Body Confidence Campaign Toolkit for Schools follows on from the Body Image Pledge, released in November 2016, that asked fashion, media, music and advertising industries to ‘Be Real’ in their use of images.

Meanwhile, head teachers have backed the importance of teaching body confidence in school.

Annette Turner, Head Teacher at Southend YMCA’s Community Free School, said: “The Be Real Campaign has shown body image anxiety to be a very real issue among young people that negatively impacts on both academic performance and general wellbeing.

“The toolkit released today will allow us to tackle this problem head on with a whole-school approach that opens up discussions around body image in the classroom and also encourages young people to start conversations among their peers.

“We are committed to becoming a Be Real School in which young people have a platform to talk about body image concerns so they can feel more confident in their bodies and better able to lead healthier, happier lives.”

Schools can download a copy of the toolkit at www.berealcampaign.co.uk/schools/