‘The Big Ask’: New children’s commissioner starts role with plan to survey school pupils

children's commissioner

School pupils will be surveyed by the new children’s commissioner for a “once-in-a-generation review of the future of childhood”.

Former academy trust boss Dame Rachel de Souza, who took up the post on March 1, has announced plans for “the largest consultation with children ever undertaken in England” as part of her plans for a new “childhood commission”.

The “Big Ask” consultation will take place after the Easter holidays and will take the form of an online survey distributed to schools, posted to the Oak National Academy online learning platform and “advertised via social media, child-facing charities and other communications channels”.

de Souza also hopes to reach children outside mainstream settings by sending the survey to youth custody organisations, child and adolescent mental health support inpatient units and children’s homes.

The former Inspiration Trust chief executive wants her commission to be the “Beveridge report for children” – a nod to the government report in 1942 that what influential in the founding of the welfare state.

The commission will seek to “identify the barriers preventing children from reaching their full potential, propose policy and services solutions and develop targets by which improvements can be monitored”.

It will look at issues “highlighted and amplified by the Covid pandemic”, but will also address the “policy shortfalls that have held back the lives of many children for decades”.

‘This is the moment for something big’

“As we emerge from the Covid pandemic, this is the moment for something big for children to recognise the sacrifices they have made,” said de Souza, who said she had seen “first-hand the effect of this crisis on young people’s hopes and dreams, and sometimes our answers simply have not been good enough”.

“We will start by listening to children, holding the largest consultation with children in England that there has ever been. We want to hear from children from every background about their hopes and ambitions for the future, and to hear what is holding them back. Their views and experiences and ideas will help shape the way we deliver better outcomes not just for them, but for all our children in the decade ahead.”

An interim report on the consultation will be published before summer setting out “children’s expectations and aspirations, and the barriers to attaining them”. A subsequent report will “propose solutions, investment, metrics, and set out the challenge to society to pay back to this generation of children and re-set their future”.

de Souza’s appointment as children’s commissioner drew criticism from some quarters because of her close links with the government.

Her former employer, the Inspiration Trust, was set up by government minister Lord Agnew, and de Souza was often praised by former education secretary Michael Gove.

She replaced Anne Longfield, who revealed last month how she had had to “force officials and ministers to the table” to talk about vulnerable pupils.

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