Life skills and Wellbeing

In recent years, NFER has broadened its specialist skills and experience to include life skills measures, sometimes known as social and emotional learning (SEL), life skills, non-cognitive or 21st century skills.

Decision makers are increasingly interested in the acquisition and measurement of life skills amongst young people. This interest stems from their association with positive life outcomes and how they prepare young people to live successfully in a rapidly changing world. In this spotlight we highlight some of the key assessment and research projects we have delivered in recent years about these skills, their measurement and wellbeing in UK and internationally. These projects have investigated a wide range of topics, including critical thinking, social skills, global citizenship as well as subjective wellbeing.

If you would like to talk to the NFER life skills team to find out more about our projects and capacity in this area, please contact Lisa Kuhn for more information.

Life Skills Assessment Development

Life Skills and Citizenship Education Initiative (LSCE)

To support UNICEF and the World Bank in their aim to provide a standardised approach for assessing life skills in 12- to 14-year-old students, NFER worked with the International Association for the Evaluation of Educational Achievement (IEA) and Roehampton University to develop an assessment based on the Life Skills and Citizenship Education (LSCE) framework, for use in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region. This assessment directly supports UNICEF’s aim to guide policies, strategies and programmes on life skills and citizenship education through a systems approach and in the context of national education reforms.
Skills Imperative 2035 Spotlight

The Skills Imperative 2035

NFER is leading a strategic research partnership, funded by the Nuffield Foundation, to identify the essential employment skills people in England will need for work by 2035. This includes the development of a survey of essential skills including collaboration, communication, creative thinking, information literacy, organising, planning & prioritising, and problem solving & decision making. Data from this survey will be used to project the demand and supply of essential employment skills for 2035 and to investigate how essential employment skills can be developed through the education system and other mechanisms.
Children Young People Mental Health Spotlight

Children and young people’s wellbeing and mental health during the Covid-19 pandemic

This NFER-funded project summarises key findings from a review of the existing evidence about the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic in the UK, and the impact the country’s response to it has had on children and young people's wellbeing and mental health. This includes additional secondary analysis of Understanding Society data exploring a 10-year trend in mental health. Our resulting recommendations prompted a response from education stakeholders, including calls for catch-up support to be targeted on the lowest attaining pupils, and to ensure schools are adequately funded to deliver long-term support.
PISA 2018 Wellbeing Spotlight

PISA 2018 Wellbeing

NFER has more than two decades’ experience in the national coordinator role on several International Large Scale Assessments (ILSAs) for the UK, including PISA, IELS England 2018 and PIACC 2021. This involves the review and adaptation of the additional skill areas such as collaborative problem-solving tasks and contextual questionnaires including questions on wellbeing. In 2021, we published additional analyses with a focus on young people’s life satisfaction and wellbeing and found that for the UK, strength of personal relationships was the most important factor linked to pupils’ wellbeing.
Dofe Wellbeing Spotlight

The impact of the DofE on young people’s mental health and wellbeing

This research explored how participation in the Duke of Edinburgh’s Award (UK), which is undertaken by 14 to 24-year-olds, impacts participants’ emotional health and wellbeing. The research is a snapshot of self-reported wellbeing and development of soft skills from 4,638 participants and provides evidence of the self-reported positive effects this extracurricular activity had on young people’s mental wellbeing. Data from this survey has been used to inform the DofE’s campaign to support positive mental health and wellbeing.
Impact of Covid-19 School Closures Spotlight

Impact of Covid-19-related school closures in Key Stage 1 on attainment and social skills of pupils in Year 3 and Year 4 in academic year 2022/2023

This longitudinal study of the youngest school-aged children in England explores the long-term impact of Covid-19-related disruptions to schools on pupils' achievement and social skills during and after the pandemic. This report represents the findings from the third year of the study.
Breadth Of Skills Spotlight

UNESCO Institute for Statistics SDG 4.7 Breadth of Skills Indicator

To assess the extent to which countries are creating opportunities for children to develop a wide range of skills related to Global Citizenship and Sustainable Development, this project developed a measurement framework and tools for SDG indicator 4.7.6. The tools were piloted in Bhutan, Costa Rica and Gambia in 2020.