Manifesto 2024

Five ambitions to improve childhood – from children themselves

Here are my education-specific policy priorities informed by the voices of over one million children

Here are my education-specific policy priorities informed by the voices of over one million children

3 May 2024, 5:00

When I took office as Children’s Commissioner, I made it my mission to listen to children. The Big Ask gathered responses from over 500,000 children about what is important to them. Now, The Big Ambition survey means my work is backed by more than one million children’s voices.

The Big Ambition sets out a vision for transforming childhood which has come directly from them. Mostly, it is brimming with their practical, positive ideas and solutions, hopeful for change and confident that it can happen. However, some (including the 14,000 with a social worker) were consistently less positive.

Perhaps the most striking finding is that only one in five children (22 per cent) feels listened to by those who run the country. As a former headteacher and teacher, this is really frustrating.

That’s my challenge to all politicians as we approach a general election: listen to what children are telling you they want, and act on it.

Here are five key education-focused areas from The Big Ambition to tackle urgently:

A brilliant education

Children deeply value their education. Sixty per cent say they enjoy school or college. However, too many miss out because they lack the support they need to engage and attend. That’s why I want to see:

  1. Schools and local authorities held to account for the outcomes of children who leave their school rolls;
  2. Attendance mentors working across multi-academy trusts and local authorities providing whole-family support to remove barriers to attendance;
  3. Alternative Provision as an outreach intervention, with schools remaining accountable for the children they move into these settings; and
  4. A register of children not in school, so that we have a proper grip on where children are and stop any from missing out completely.

Better support for SEND

Children with special educational needs and disabilities (SEND) were less likely to say they enjoy school or have access to good healthcare than children without SEND. We need a quicker pace of change for these children, who are spending too much of their childhoods waiting for support. I have recommended:

  1. That no child should wait longer than one term for a local authority needs assessment, and that a reformed ‘Child’s Plan’ should give them and their families clarity and confidence in the support they receive;
  2. Support services delivered on school sites;
  3. Statutory SEND support, with additional funding sitting separately from a school’s high-needs budget; and
  4. Ongoing training in supporting SEND throughout teachers’ careers.

Healthy minds and bodies

Most children (84 per cent) agree they can access good healthcare when they need it. However, older children answered health and wellbeing questions more negatively. That’s why I’ve recommended:

  1. A school nurse in every school working hand-in-hand with youth workers, paediatricians and other healthcare professionals;
  2. New restrictions on vapes so they are not intentionally marketed to children;
  3. Mental health services collocated in every school so that help is available earlier; and
  4. Schools are empowered to tackle and discuss emerging topics such as misogyny or sexual harassment.

Tackling child poverty

Children are becoming increasingly aware of and affected by their parents’ stresses, especially related to work and the cost of living. The 6 per cent of children who told me they were not happy with their family life were nine times more likely to be unhappy with their life overall. That’s why I want to see:

  1. All eligible children auto-enrolled in free school meals; and
  2. Breakfast clubs offered at every school, free of charge to parents.

Successful careers and life skills

Children are ambitious and are vocal about the kinds of skills they feel they are missing; just 65 per cent of respondents agree children know about good jobs for when they’re older. The education system needs to be better preparing them for adulthood. That’s why I’ve recommended: 

  1. High-quality PSHE to include life skills such as financial education, economic wellbeing and career planning;
  2. Ofsted should hold schools to account for the quality of their PSHE lessons; and 
  3. High-quality careers advice for every child.

Read the full detail of these recommendations and more here

Your thoughts

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *