Once upon a time, children feared turning up to school because of a bully. For some, it is still a problem. But today, has the system itself turned into the bully? To add some context to the point I am trying to make, I would like to provide a few statistics. Firstly, according to the Department of work and pensions there are currently 3.5 million children living in poverty in the UK today. And 61% of families in the bottom income quintile (the 25% of families earning the least) cannot afford to take their children on holiday for one week a year. (1)
The 2001 census identified 178,000 children are acting as carers for related adults. (2)
The National Institute for Health and Care excellence, NICE, has identified 80,000 children with depression or other mental health issues. (3)
A Netmums survey has suggested that 1 in 5 children suffer from School Phobia at some point. (4)
The above difficulties, then, are accepted. Or are they? Despite the above statements, we have headlines like these:
So what drives schools to such punitive financial action? The simple answer is the drive to academic excellence. Successive Governments have judged schools purely by the academic results they achieve. This means that schools are pushed to put all their efforts into academic teaching and any time not centred on academic learning is considered wasted and to be stopped at all costs. Schools are not judged by how well rounded the individuals who leave their care are.
So is it time that schools and society as whole looks, not at how they can punish people for not towing the line, but how we can work with them to ensure happier childhoods and as a result better lives, even if it means sacrificing a certain amount of academic success? The Royal Society for the Arts certainly seems to think so, but more of that on another day.