Yesterday saw the launch of the Children’s Society report on the wellbeing of children and young people.
The “Good Childhood Report 2012” identifies some key issues facing children and young people in Britain today. Whilst there are many positive observations in this report, there are also many glaring problems for many of our young people. Once more we have to ask the question as to whether we are addressing the serious issue of wellbeing for all.
To read the report in full, please click on the link.
Here are some key findings.
- 9% of young people between 8 and 15 years of age are not happy with their lives
- Teenagers are three times as likely to be unhappy than younger children
- Family relationships are the most prominent determinant of a child’s happiness
- 36% of children felt they were bullied three or more times in the last three months
- Only 46% of female teenagers felt confident about their future compared with 60% of males
- Children are happiest when their money and possessions are the same as their peers
Children considered ten areas that affect their wellbeing: The Good Childhood Index.
In order, they placed family as the thing that makes them happiest, with their future prospects causing the most stress and uncertainty.
- Relationships with family
- Relationships with friends
- Time use
- Things (money and possessions)
- Amounts of choice in life
- The future
The responses from questions on these areas produced six priority areas as to what children need:-
- The conditions to learn and develop – considering the close link between children’s wellbeing in the present and their hopes and aspirations for the future.
- A positive view of themselves and an identity that is respected – including their physical and mental health, and how they feel about the way they look.
- Enough of what matters – having enough but not too much money and possessions, and having an experience that puts them on a par with their peers.
- Positive relationships with their family and friends – in particular a balance between nurturing aspects of relationships and aspects relation to autonomy, respect and choice.
- A safe and suitable home environment and local area – including issues of safety at home, at school and in the local area; facilities available to them and the relationship with adults in their community.
- Opportunity to take part in positive activities to thrive – achieving the right balance of time between school work and leisure, and spending enough time in key social relationships with friends and family.
These issues sound somewhat familiar for anyone who knows the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of the Child. We know and have been told repeatedly what children want and what they need – yet, our policy makers still ignore these fundamental rights to the detriment of our future generations – in order for politicians and others to pursue their own agenda of what they think is needed for children to successfully transfer to adulthood.
Children talk. We, as adults, often don’t listen.
“Out of the mouths of babes” – It is time for us to listen very carefully to what children have to say because they talk sense. They instinctively believe in equality and they recognise the importance of relationships in their lives. They often need support to enable positive relationships to flourish.
They ask for respect and autonomy, which so often adults refuse to give them. Is it any wonder that at least 9% of them are disillusioned and discontented with life? What an indictment on our society and our education system.
This is not intelligent.
The launch of the report was held at Church House Westminster and 3Di Associates attended the event to listen to the researchers’ explanations of the report as well as the views of Dr. John Sentamu, Archbishop of York.
“Shock is an inadequate response” said the Archbishop. Of course we can be shocked about a report in the 21st Century which yet again highlights the significant number of children having considerable wellbeing needs that are still unmet. But shock is not enough. Action is required, and we all need to take some responsibility to ensure that wellbeing is raised in the political agenda and policies are created which actually address wellbeing and enable children to have the things in life that are their human right.
Dr. Sentamu talked excellent sense, reiterating the key points that the children had made. He said we need to look beyond the measurable. He posed the question that resonates completely with 3Di Associates – how do we enable children to fulfil their human potential?
He asked another question – what is the point of materialism if we lose our soul? His main focus was that relationships of all kinds are the most vital aspect of a contented life. Relationships are essential; both relationship with friends and family and also our relationship with ourselves – the vitality of self-worth.
Dr. Sentamu pointed out that the government are currently conducting a wellbeing survey which excludes children. He asked how we could possibly assess the wellbeing of the country without consulting a cross-section of children, and he hoped that the government would take this Children’s Society report into account when they submit their final report.
He said that we are “failing primary school children” with the continued focus on attainment to the detriment of wellbeing. He said we need to change course and we need to do it now.
Once more, he outlined the importance of relationships. He said that sharing with others was liberating and in order to flourish we all need to learn how to share. Children need this and have made it clear within their responses that they believe in sharing and understand the positive feeling when inequality is eradicated. If all of our children are going to be positive and happy, we need to address inequality properly. The slightest distortion between the materialistic acquisitions of one child with another automatically creates an inequality that children themselves recognise in an instant.
Dr. Sentamu said that marriage was important but that it was not the most important means to ensuring children had a happy family life. He made a wonderful analogy of the green grass in certain pastures and how we tend to look at marriage as the greenest grass of all, ignoring or even discrediting the other fields of grass. He suggested that we were looking too hard at the grass in the fields, i.e. the alleged problems of single-parenthood or unmarried ‘couples’ rather than concentrating on the look on the faces of the cows!
It isn’t the fields that are important. It’s the positive effect it is having on the incumbents that should be our focus – irrespective of what field they are in.
He concluded his speech with a call to action. As a member of the Church of England, and consequently a member of the second chamber of government, he felt an obligation to tell the policy makers that they “ain’t got it right” and the exclusive focus on attainment needed addressing immediately. He called for a “National Nurturing” stating once more that we have failed children and we need to do something now.
3Di Associates welcomes this report yet is disheartened once more that this report should even exist in the 21st Century. We have spent decades ignoring the plight of our children and their rights, and we must do something about it now.
Had there been the opportunity, we would have liked to pose a question to the audience at this event which contained a scattering of Chief Executives and Children’s Services leaders. Having listened to the Archbishop and read the report what are they going to do to safeguard against the kinds of stresses that children had outlined? Are they prepared to promote a worthwhile, child-led curriculum with choice and creativity and a pedagogy appropriate to our times and the needs of children?
How are our leaders in national government, local government and schools going to give children greater autonomy – in their curriculum, in their leisure, in enabling them to contribute to decisions that affect them significantly?
The six key areas that the report outlines are essentially key aspects of a PSHE curriculum that the government has chosen not to include in the revision of the National Curriculum. How can this be allowed to happen?
Schools have a duty of care to promote the wellbeing of pupils. The new Ofsted guidelines ask inspectors to focus on the spiritual, moral, social and cultural development of the child, and yet our schools still do not have a statutory requirement to consider the six key points that this report has identified as important to the wellbeing of children.
3Di Associates would argue the need go further than these six recommendations. The development of spiritual intelligence as well as a balance between social and personal intelligence is essential to the wellbeing of children, young people and adults alike. We cannot reach our human potential without an intelligent look at the intelligences, ensuring we are nurturing each of our intelligences to get the very best out of life.
For now though, we can and must support these recommendations and promote the call for action.
Shock is indeed an inadequate response and those who feel an urgency about the subject of wellbeing and the lack of support for children must unite to work collaboratively to ensure that we do not lose further generations of children whose wellbeing is distorted and damaged by the machinations and decisions of unenlightened policy makers.
Even 90% of children who appear relatively “happy”, respected, supported and autonomous will find their wellbeing increased considerably if we implement the recommendations of this excellent report.