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Research reveals almost half of secondary school pupils are missing out on hobbies

Media release

10 February

New research reveals that almost half of young people of secondary school age are missing out on out-of-school activities or hobbies, with young people living in areas of high deprivation even less likely to take part. 

New Ipsos research commissioned by Children in Scotland asked 1500 young people aged 11 to 18 about the clubs and activities they took part in after school or at the weekend.  

It found that only 54% of young people of secondary school age said that they take part in a club or activity outside of school. This dropped to 45% among secondary school aged children living in the areas of highest deprivation, compared with 65% in the most affluent areas. Those living with a physical or mental health condition were also less likely to take part in clubs or activities out of school.  

Children in Scotland commissioned the research to support the call to government for a national hobby premium to ensure that all children and young people in Scotland have free access to a hobby or activity of their choosing.

Click here to read our policy briefing: “Why Scotland should introduce a Hobby Premium: The Right to Play”

Click here to read our Manifesto for 2021-26 which includes the call for a Hobby Premium.

Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child states that children have a right to leisure and play. Hobbies are a way for children to play, explore their interests, build skills, make mistakes and grow.  

Evidence from countries where support for hobbies is in place, for example Finland, shows that taking part in hobbies has a hugely positive impact on children and young people’s confidence, wellbeing and learning. Benefits can be both immediate and longer term. However, barriers such as cost and availability can mean that not all children have equal access to hobbies and their associated benefits.

Survey results

Providing data on the current Scottish context, responses from 1533 secondary school pupils as part of an Ipsos survey, conducted between September - December 2022, revealed that: 

  • Overall, about half (54%) of secondary school aged children (S1 to S6) say they are currently taking part in an out of school club or activity 
  • Less than half (45%) of secondary school aged children living in the areas of highest deprivation are taking part in an out of school club or activity. This compares with 65% in the most affluent areas.  
  • Young people with a physical or mental health condition are less likely to take part in a club or activity than those with no physical or mental health condition (51% and 62% respectively)  
  • Slightly more children who identify as white take part in clubs and activities than those who identify with another ethnicity (56% and 52% respectively) 
  • Rates of participation in clubs and activities are broadly the same for girls and boys (54% and 55% respectively) 
  • Rates of participation in clubs and activities are broadly the same for those living in rural and urban areas (52% and 54% respectively) 

The call for a hobby premium

On the results from the survey and their implications for children and young people’s health and wellbeing, Head of Policy, Projects and Participation at Children in Scotland, Amy Woodhouse says:

“It’s of real concern that a significant proportion of young people are not taking part in a club or after school activity.  That participation is less common for those living in areas with high deprivation or with a physical or mental health condition adds to evidence from elsewhere that barriers relating to cost and accessibility can be an influencing factor.  

Given the importance of hobbies to physical and emotional wellbeing, we need government to take up the call for a hobby premium and invest in increasing access to hobbies for all children living in Scotland.  

For more information about the Hobby Premium: 

Click here to read our Policy Briefing on the call for a Hobby Premium: Why Scotland should introduce a Hobby Premium: The Right to Play

Click here to read a blog from includem’s Tuisku “Snow” Curtis-Kolu on what we can learn from Finland about establishing a Hobby Premium 

Media contact: Catherine Bromley – email

Notes for editors

Project background 

Children in Scotland launched the call for a Hobby Premium for Scotland within its 2021-26 Manifesto, published in November 2020. The call is supported by Children in Scotland’s members and its partners across the sector including Play Scotland, Early Years Scotland, Children 1st, YouthLink Scotland and Together.


2021-2026 Manifesto

Our Manifesto outlines key suggested changes in policy and legislation - it contains 10 themes and 33 calls

Click here to access

The call for a Hobby Premium

Read our policy briefing: “Why Scotland should introduce a Hobby Premium: The Right to Play”

Click here to read

Consultation responses

Our members' expertise informs positions we take on child policy and legislation

Click here to read

Children's Rights and the UNCRC Training

Bridging policy and practice: bespoke children's rights training tailored to your organisation’s needs

Click here for more
A newborn baby being held by their mother. She is looking down them with the father nearby.

News: Perinatal mental health services receive £1m funding boost

Posted 31 January, 2023 by Nina Joynson

A fund that has supported more 7,000 individuals with perinatal mental health issues has received a new round of investment for 2023-24

The Scottish Government has announced additional funding for the Perinatal and Infant Mental Health (PIMH) Fund, to support charities that provide one-to-one and group support and care.

Estimates suggest that up to 20% of mothers and 10% of fathers are affected by poor perinatal mental health, and 10-22% of babies and young children also experience mental health difficulties.

Between April 2023 and March 2024, £1 million will be invested in 34 charities that help new families in the early stages of parenthood.

The PIMH Fund was launched in October 2020 with a £2.5 million investment over two-and-a-half-years. An extension to the existing Fund at the current level was announced by Kevin Stewart, Minister of Mental Wellbeing and Social Care in January 2023.

The Fund is managed by Inspiring Scotland and distributed amongst charities that support parents, carers, infants and families through the provision of counselling, peer support, parenting support and training.

More than 7,000 individuals have been supported by the Fund, through charities including Dads Rock, Starcatchers, MindMosaic and Home-Start branches across Scotland.

Celia Tennant, Chief Executive of Inspiring Scotland, said:

“We’re delighted the Perinatal and Infant Mental Health Fund has been extended for another year. This will enable us to work alongside our charity partners to continue offering their essential perinatal services that support families with babies.

“This support is needed now more than ever, and these organisations are a lifeline to parents and families, offering empathetic support with trusted relationships right at the heart of their services.”

A greyscale image of a smiling person with hair to their shoulders and wearing a dark-coloured top.

Comment: It’s time to get talking about mental health

Posted 27 January, 2023 by Jennifer Drummond

Ahead of Time to Talk Day on Thursday 2 February, Wendy Halliday (pictured) highlights the need to normalise discussions around positive mental health.

It’s been a difficult few years for Scotland’s young people.

As we slowly emerge from a global pandemic of uncertainty and loss, including missing out on all of the typical experiences so many take for granted, we’re deepening into a cost-of-living crisis. This means even more worry and anxiety for children and young people, as well as their parents, carers and adults who work with them.

While we did get better at talking about mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic, that’s not to say that everyone is comfortable joining the conversation.

Stigma around mental health

In recent times, our politicians, news editors and celebrities have been giving mental health the platform it deserves, but there is still stigma around mental health and mental health problems – particularly among our young people.

Our most recent research into young people’s mental health showed that 72 per cent of young people have struggled with their mental health – but more than half (51 per cent) wouldn’t tell someone if they were struggling.

Stigma continues to be a big barrier for young people. Two thirds (67 per cent) agree that families can be dismissive when a young person says they’re struggling with their mental health.

The research also found that just under four in ten young people (39 per cent) think teachers take them seriously when they say they are struggling with mental health.

Something needs to change so that our young people feel comfortable talking about how they’re feeling and don’t miss out on getting help when they need it.

Making space to talk

We’ve seen through our See Me See Change programme for secondary schools (click here to access) that there’s a real appetite to tackle mental health stigma in schools – from both young people and staff – and our upcoming campaign provides the ideal platform to ensure those important mental health conversations happen

Time to Talk Day, which takes place on Thursday 2 February, encourages people across Scotland to make space in their day for a conversation about mental health.

Talking about mental health reduces stigma, helping to create supportive communities where we can talk openly about mental health and feel empowered to seek help when we are struggling.

Every year, we see schools, colleges, workplaces and community groups across the nation bringing people together and hosting a range of events, from coffee mornings to mental health information sessions, check-in-and-chat events to pledge walls, setting out how they’ll take action against mental health stigma.

It’s really easy to get involved – and we’ve got lots of ideas for different activities you can try out on our website (click here to access).

Starting the conversation

Talking about mental health doesn’t have to be scary – and you don’t have to be an expert to start a conversation.A simple, “How are you?” or, “Are you okay?” could be all that someone needs to hear to help them admit that things aren’t so good.

People often worry too that they won’t know the right thing to say or do – but time and again, our volunteers tell us that, in most cases, listening is enough. Lending an ear and letting people get it off their chest can be really powerful.

By talking openly about mental health we can bust the myths and break down barriers which continue to cause people of all ages to hold back from talking about what’s on their mind.

A simple conversation really can be life changing – so don’t hold back and make space in your day for a conversation about mental health on 2 February and whenever it is needed.

Wendy Halliday is the Director of See Me, Scotland’s programme to end mental health stigma and discrimination.

Thursday 2 February 2023 is Time to Talk Day.
Click here to find out more about how to get involved

If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, the See Me website has a number of resources and sources to help.
Click here to visit the See Me website

Photo. A number of different cancer awareness ribbons are laid out on a white background, including a red ribbon, blue ribbon, orange ribbon and pink ribbon.

News: New research seeks to better understand the experiences of young cancer patients

Posted 22 January, 2023 by Jennifer Drummond

The groundbreaking work will look to build a new evidence base of the needs of young cancer patients and identify gaps in how the system currently supports them.

The work is being conducted by leading cancer charities Young Lives vs Cancer, the Children’s Cancer and Leukemia Group, the Ellen McArthur Cancer Trust and Teenage Cancer Trust across the whole of the UK.

Dartington Service Design Lab, a charity which aims to improve children’s outcomes through research, systems thinking and co-design approaches, has been commissioned as the research partner. In partnership with Edge Hill University, Dartington will undertake experience-led research, co-designed by young people, parents of children with cancer and key stakeholders.

The project will bring together the voices of children, young people and families, as well as new evidence and systems thinking that will help inform developments and ultimately improve the outcomes for the young people the charities work with.

Scottish cancer rates

Each year in Scotland, around 330 children and young people under 25 are diagnosed with cancer, according to the latest statistics from Public Health Scotland - almost one person every day.

Speaking specifically about the involvement of Scottish young people and their families, Nathan Sheach, Strategic Lead for Service Design at Dartington Service Design Lab said:

“This research seeks to align the service provision of care, advice and support to the true needs of the young Scottish people (and others across the UK) with experience of cancer and their supporting peers, guardians or families' experiences.

“Scotland is unique in its positioning in terms of what’s available to young people with cancer. Large third sector organisations, National Health Service trusts and local peer-to-peer and community support groups are heavily spread out across the country. Each person's experience, needs, support around their cancer diagnosis will be different among what is quite a complex system of support services available.“

Young people’s views will be crucial

The project is seeking participants who are 14-25 years old, with experience of cancer in the last five years, to participate in workshops between now and May to help better understand the needs of young people in Scotland and strengthen the evidence about the support available.

Parents and guardians who have supported a young person with cancer are also invited to participate to share their experiences and insight into strategies for this vital area of work.

Research will be taking place during the first half of 2023, with findings expected in the autumn.

Click here to read more about the project

Three young people with short dark hair sitting on a rocky beach facing away from the camera. One has their hood up and all are wearing checked shirts.

News: Young men's mental health and participation is the focus of new research

Posted 11 January, 2023 by Nina Joynson

A new two-year study led by Children and Young People’s Centre will focus on understanding the mental health challenges faced by three marginalised groups of young men aged 16-24.

The project, Men Minds, will see collaboration between academics from three universities with up to twelve young men aged 16-24 to explore masculinities, mental health, wellbeing and help-seeking.

Participants from three groups of marginalised communities will form a Young People's Forum: those who are migrants, those who are LGBTQ+ and those in conflict with the law. 

All three groups are more likely than other groups to face challenges to their mental health, as well as additional barriers to accessing support services and opportunities to participate in research. 

The study aims to understand how research engagement with marginalised young men can be improved, and to co-produce new knowledge on adolescent mental health and help-seeking.

After designing accessible research methods with the initial 12 participants, the Forum will then use these methods to conduct further research with a wider group of up to 80 young men.

More widely, Men Minds aims to engage with non-academic partners to ensure its output contributes to policy and practice change.

The study is funded by UKRI and will bring together academics in Scotland and Australia from the Universities of Strathclyde, Dundee and Monash. 

Dr. Nina Vaswani, research lead at CYCJ, is Men Minds' principal investigator. On the project, she said:

“It’s about creating an environment in which we can explore these ideas, to make information more inclusive and to support young men to lead on developing better research.

“The knowledge that we will gain from having more accessible research methods will also feed into service provision, practice and policy. Our non-academic partners will help with translating this new knowledge into tangible change for young men.”

The project will soon start seeking young men aged 16-24 to join its Young People's Forum.

Click here to visit the Men Minds website

Graphic. A green box with a smiling face has eyes closed and is wearing a santa hat. Underneath it reads '12 Days of Calm Christmas'

News: Mindful countdown to Christmas launches today

Posted 14 December, 2022 by Jennifer Drummond

The 12 Days of Calm Christmas offers children and families daily mindfulness activities to cope with the busy festive period.

Social start-up, Wee Seeds, has created and launched the activities to help bring calm, reduce stress and contribute to a better night’s sleep in the run up to, and during, the Christmas holidays.

The mini-mindful exercises, aimed at children and their parents can help plant the seeds of focus, calmness, kindness and gratitude in early years children.

Christina Cran, mum of 10-year-old Fin and founder of Wee Seeds, said:

“We’ve been through many Decembers now when I’ve watched Fin getting more broken by the day. Often by the time Christmas Day comes, everyone is exhausted. We want to stop that happening.

“Taking a pause each day through mindfulness activities is proven to support our physical, emotional and mental wellbeing. Our five-minute mindfulness activities will help parents bring calm and connection this December.”

The 12 mini-mindfulness activities are aimed at 3-8 year olds and have been given festive names such as Snow Angel, Festive Gratitude and Christmas Pause Button.

Wee Seeds will be sharing the exercises on social media from 14 December until Christmas Day. Follow on Facebook (click here to access), Instagram (click here to access) or Twitter (click here to access) for daily activities.

Alternatively, you can click here to download the 12 Days of Calm Christmas.

Photo. A young girl looks off camera. She has brown hair blowing in the wind and has a sad / thoughtful expression. She appears to be outside.

News: New calls to action for Anti-Bullying Week 2022

Posted 15 November, 2022 by Jennifer Drummond

respectme, Scotland’s national anti-bullying charity, has called for action to address bullying during this year’s Anti-Bullying week, announcing a new campaign hub and urging those working with children and young people to make a real commitment to change.

The Listen Up! (Respect our Rights) Campaign was created with input from respectme’s Youth Action Group, requesting all reports of bullying are taken seriously and for children’s rights to be at the heart of all effective responses to bullying.

During the development of the campaign, the young ambassadors talked at length about times they have felt unheard and shared experiences of not being taken seriously when reporting bullying to a professional or trusted adult.

Listen Up! (Respect our Rights) aims to open a national conversation to inspire adults to listen and take action to stop bullying in its tracks.

As part of the campaign, children and young people in schools, youth settings and at home will be asked to engage with the campaign by taking part in class-based lessons through drama and dance, and through new youth-led activities exploring children’s rights in the context of bullying and kindness.

Five Step Action Plan

During Anti-bullying week, and beyond, educations, schools, youth and sports clubs are invited to pledge to the charity’s Five Step Action Plan:

  • Registering for respectme’s Ant-Bullying Learning Academy eLearning modules
  • Refresh, review and update current anti-bullying policy
  • Create a pupil form or anti-bullying committee to inform anti-bullying policy and practice
  • Create simple, safe pathways for reporting bullying that respect children’s rights
  • Involve children and young people with Listen Up! Campaign activities and messages for anti bullying week 2022.

Anti-Bullying Week 2022 runs from Monday 14 November-Friday 18 November.

Click here to visit the Listen Up! (Respecting our Rights) campaign hub

Click here to find out more about Anti-Bullying Week 2022, and the wider work of respectme

New edition of Insight magazine available now

The winter edition of Insight, Children in Scotland's biannual membership magazine, is published today.

Providing a space for reflection and aiming to drive dialogue, Insight has been created for our members as a key part of our membership benefits offer and is also available by subscription to non-members.

Across the magazine, we profile the individuals pushing for progress and the projects making it possible; look critically at some of the big issues facing children, young people and families, and share new examples of best practice from across the children's sector.

In this issue Kenny Murray, new Director of Inclusion and Engagement at Who Cares? Scotland, tells us why accountability is key; Dr Lynn McNair reflects on the opportunities a later school start age could bring; Alison Watson from Shelter Scotland comments on the record number of children in temporary accommodation; and Magic Torch Comics share how sequential storytelling can help unlock literacy.

Jennifer Drummond, Editor of Insight, says:

As we approach the end of the year, the conversation continues around how to mitigate the cost-of-living crisis that is impacting so many families.

“From addressing stigma and campaigning for equality for those who are Care Experienced, to supporting those facing homelessness or dealing with childhood trauma, this latest edition considers some of the challenges facing our most disadvantaged communities.”

Insight is available for free to all Children in Scotland members, as both print and digital editions.

Click here to find out more about joining us in membership

Non-members can subscribe to receive Insight for just £10 per year (2 issues).

Click here find out more about subscribing to Insight.


Insight: Issue 3

Find out more about what's inside the latest issue. Image by Mary Buchanan

Click here to read more

Join us in membership

Find our more about the benefits of our joining our network

Click here for more
A black and white image of a person wearing glasses and a jacket with a string of large beads around their neck. They have dark curly hair to shoulder length

Comment: We've promised change. Now it's time to deliver

Posted 11 Aug, 2022 by Jennifer Drummond

A recent report has highlighted the unmet needs of young people in foster care, as well as the lack of support for foster carers. Something needs to change, writes Jacqueline Cassidy (pictured)

Foster care provides children with stability and security and offers some children their first positive experience of family life. It can help to improve children's mental wellbeing and educational outcomes. However, children's needs can't fully be met if the support they need from other services isn’t readily available to them.

The Fostering Network’s latest report (click here to read) shows that we are still failing to meet some of our children and young people’s most basic needs and uphold their rights, particularly when it comes to their health, education and cultural identity.

State of the Nation's Foster Care

The report is based on results from the State of the Nation’s Foster Care 2021 survey, which provides the most comprehensive insight into fostering in Scotland and across the UK. It gathers the views of foster carers who are providing support and care to thousands of children and young people. Their view strongly indicates that both local and national government are failing to meet their responsibility as a parent to these children.

Key findings are:

  • A quarter of foster carers were looking after at least one child who they felt needed mental health support but was not getting it.
  • Fifty-four per cent of foster carers were looking after at least one child who receives additional support to assist their learning. Of these foster carers, a quarter felt that the additional support was not sufficient.
  • Thirteen per cent of foster carers reported having looked after a child with suspected Foetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder (FASD).
  • Nine per cent of foster carers reported having looked after a child with a diagnosis of FASD, however, only a third received follow-up support post-diagnosis.
  • Fifty-five per cent of foster carers had not received any support or advice around supporting a child’s cultural and/or religious needs.
  • Scotland continues to have no minimum allowances for children’s needs despite multiple commitments from the Scottish Government.

Responsibilities of the state

Foster carers are dedicated to transforming children’s lives – but they cannot do this alone.

We are calling on national and local government across Scotland to ensure that children living in foster care are able to access all the services they are entitled to, and so desperately need; and that they are listened to by all agencies working with them.

Awareness-raising, training and support

We need to invest in awareness-raising, training and therapeutic approaches. This is so practitioners across all public sector organisations that support children have the understanding and skills they need to best support children with care experience.

Furthermore, we want to see a learning and development framework for foster carers introduced, such as that already in place in Wales, so foster carers can access the learning and development they feel they need to ensure the children in their care can thrive.

Working for change

So what are we doing? We continue to lobby the Scottish Government to introduce minimum allowances for children that are at least as good as the best allowances available in Scotland.

We are raising awareness and providing support to our members to positively engage with The Promise. Internally, we’ve committed to a review of our organisational language and framing of care so we can work towards eradicating the stigmatisation of care experience, and we’re investing in trauma training for our staff team.

The Fostering Network also continue to develop our participation opportunities for children and young people so we can protect and uphold their right to express their views and be heard. Most recently, we’ve launched a recruitment campaign to establish an advisory board of young people with experience of foster care or as a child of a foster carer, who will guide and inform some of our work.

In addition, we provide training and support to foster carers, and services and all those in the fostering community. We want to nurture and support those adults who care for our children and young people so that foster care is a positive, loving and supportive  experience that meets children and young people’s needs, and helps them thrive.

Foster carers provide children who can no longer live with their birth families with stability, security and a positive and supportive home environment. They help young people recover from trauma and encourage them to believe in and fulfil their potential. But they need to be supported by other services and with adequate funding.

We have committed to change, now we owe it to them to deliver.

Jacqueline Cassidy is Director of Practice and Scotland at The Fostering Network
Click here to find out more 

Photo of two children walking away from the camera. The one on the left is shorter, with short hair, and the one on the right is taller and has long hair in a ponytail.

News: Children younger in school year more likely to be treated for ADHD

Posted 6 July, 2022 by Nina Joynson

A new study has revealed that children who are younger in the school year are more likely to receive treatment for ADHD, suggesting immaturity may influence diagnosis.

Researchers at Swansea University and the University of Glasgow have found a relationship between age within school cohort and treatment for Attention-Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD).

Health and education records of more than one million children were linked in order to study associations between age and ADHD in primary and secondary pupils.

The research also considered the impact of holding children back in school. It accounted for pupils that were held back by one year either due to a belief that they would manage poorly when competing against older peers, or because they might benefit from additional schooling.

Research findings

The results of the study, which looked at children in both Scotland and Wales, revealed that:

  • Less than 1% (0.87%) of children in the study were treated for ADHD (0.84% in Scotland; 0.96% in Wales)
  • Children who were amongst the youngest in their class were more likely to receive an ADHD diagnosis and treatment
  • More children started school later than the school-starting age in Scotland (7.66%) than in Wales (0.78%)
  • Children who did not start school the same time as their peers were more likely to be treated for ADHD. Of these, 81.18% would have been the youngest in their school year
  • Children who started later more likely to be male, affluent, preterm and low birth weight
  • The prevalence of ADHD was higher in boys, and increased with deprivation, maternal smoking during pregnancy, lower maternal age, birth weight and APGAR scores.

Overall, the findings suggest that relational immaturity may influence whether a child is treated for ADHD. This discovery could have potential future clinical and policy implications.

Professor Michael Fleming, joint first author from the University of Glasgow said:

“Our findings revealed that children younger within the school year are more likely to be treated for ADHD, suggesting immaturity may influence diagnosis. However, this trend looks to be masked in countries with flexible start date policies where younger children with attention or behavioural problems are more likely to be held back a year.

"Holding back children does not appear to reverse the need for ADHD medication. It is possible that holding back children with ADHD might, nonetheless, improve other outcomes."

The Scottish part of the study was sponsored by Health Data Research UK.  The Welsh research was supported by the National Centre for Population Health and Well-Being Research (NCPHWR).

Click here to read the full press release from Swansea University