In April the incoming Children's Commissioner, Dame Rachel de Souza, set out to listen to England's children, on a huge scale. More than half a million 6 - 17-year-olds took part - and many thanks to all those Thrive teachers who gave up some curriculum time to allow our pupils to take part.
At the time of The Big Ask the 2021 lockdown was still fresh in the mind, and there was the rising concern generated by the Everyone’s Invited campaign around sexual harassment and sexual violence. It was always going to be interesting to see how children responded to Dame Rachel’s survey into how well they are thriving.
The full report is called The Big Answer - here are my takeaway headlines - and how this survey is echoed within our own schools and strategic planning.
‘This is not a snowflake generation’
They are children who are veterans of a global crisis. They have endured and are emerging stronger and prematurely wise. They are survivors.
‘They want to escape the digital labyrinth’
The digital world is incredibly seductive, but children really do want safe spaces in which to play. Social media is seemingly enjoyable and oppressive in equal measure.
‘They like school’
They see education as a pathway to something different. They want apprenticeships and vocational work to have parity of esteem with undergraduates.
3 key worries
Firstly their mental health / wellbeing. 20% reported concerns, rising to to 32% of 16-17-year-olds and 40% of girls aged 16-17. Secondly the climate crisis. 39% of children aged 9-17 said the environment was one of their main worries. Thirdly many children worry about whether they will end up in a good job. Dame Rachel’s report states they want a ‘fairer, greener society’.
A Thrive take
Because we had already been listening to pupil’s experiences of fairness in and out of school we had plenty of evidence that children were concerned about their relationships within their peer-groups, and big problems like the climate crisis. That is why we are developing the listening projects we have undertaken and why we are developing the Eco Schools solution across all schools via Pupil Representation.
It is crucial that we enable all pupils - indeed all of us - to develop a sense of agency (personal and collective power) in the face of global issues and work to change the bit of the world we are responsible for.
More on pupil agency and environmentally sustainable schools soon.