Responding to the Children’s Society report out today, Paul Whiteman, general secretary of school leaders’ union NAHT, said: “We still have long way to go to balance childrens’ well-being with the expectations society places upon them.
“From a school’s perspective, we’re often told that it is our job to prepare young people for the life that is ahead of them. Whilst that’s all very well, we must not miss the key fact that their lives have already begun. A school’s offer of a broad and engaging curriculum is so much more than just preparation. It is an experience in its own right, to be lived in the moment, and to be enjoyed. Testing and exams are one way to demonstrate a pupil’s success, but they are only part of the picture and should never come at the expense of happiness.
“One significant impediment to a school’s mission to educate young people and help them grow at the same time, is the lack of funds schools have to play with. Without an immediate multi-billion-pound injection of emergency funding and a long-term commitment to future funding. Between 1995 and 2010, when schools had proper investment, young people reported that they were happier. It’s no surprise that now school and college budgets are at breaking point, children are feeling less secure and less happy.
“A big concern for school leaders is the impact of austerity on young people’s ability to learn well and enjoy school. Earlier in the year we reported that even very young children were embarrassed and ashamed by their families’ financial insecurity and housing situation. Austerity is not just a temporary phase for some families to endure, it is a day to day reality. We know from our own research that homelessness, hunger and other issues are having a terrible impact on children – the government needs to address this urgently.”
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