Three in 10 pupils coming from underprivileged backgrounds in the UK reported physical abuse at the hands of other students, being the target of negative rumours, or deliberately being left out.

The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development’s (OECD) Pisa survey of student wellbeing questioned 540,000 pupils at around the age of 15.

It found that bullying levels in the UK are significantly higher than the global average, with almost a quarter of pupils reporting having been bullied a few times a month.

On average, British pupils reported a level of 6.98 on a life-satisfaction scale ranging from 0 to 10 — lower than the average of 7.3 and sixth from the bottom of 28 OECD countries.

The findings add to growing concerns around the deteriorating mental health of young people across the country. Last week a teaching union revealed that 98% of the 2000 respondents to its survey said they had come into contact with pupils who were experiencing mental health issues.

Last year SCHOOLS NorthEast, the representative body for all 1,250 schools in the region, launched the first and only schools-led Commission into mental health issues affecting pupils across the North East. Healthy MindED brings school leaders together with key stakeholders with the aim of developing a fresh approach that is adoptable across all schools.

Professor Dame Sue Bailey, Chair of the Healthy MindED Commission and Chair of the Children and Young People’s Mental Health Coalition, said:

“The OECD report paints a mixed picture for teenagers. Whilst globally most are satisfied with life, there are worrying levels of anxiety and bullying in the UK – a problem that becomes much worse for disadvantaged teenagers.  This fits with what we already know about children and young people’s mental health.  Ensuring that children and young people have the best start in life is not only a moral imperative but is also crucial to our future prosperity as a country.

“There is a lot that schools can do to support their pupils’ mental health as typified by the Healthy MindED Commission. Good education provides a protective factor for mental health, which in turn improves attainment and attendance. Specifically, schools can help teachers identify potential mental health problems in children and young people and refer them on to get help. But of course this requires funding and training and with a General Election imminent we hope to see children and young people’s mental health prioritised in the political parties’ manifestoes to ensure this investment is forthcoming in the new Parliament.”