Giving Children a Voice

Our New Book!



‘Youthquake’ was the Oxford English Dictionary’s 2017 word of the year.  Its selection clearly  marks a growing recognition of the power of children’s voices to influence change.


Giving Children a Voice reflects that awareness of the role that children can and must play in shaping our communities. It offers a practical framework for adults to think about how they can create meaningful and effective opportunities for children to participate in shaping the world around them.


One of the most significant barriers to children’s participation are adults. This book, therefore, looks at ways in which adults can partner with children to enable rather than restrict children’s engagement. Step 1 of course is for adults to ‘revitalise their thinking’. A mental ‘detox’ invites adults to question and challenge assumptions about children. It is a process that allows us to see that the way in which we think about children matters as it informs the nature of the practices that adults offer that ultimately shapes children’s experiences.


Step 2 encourages us to explore how the way we think about children is reflected in the spaces that adult and children share. It is, for example, of limited value if we have a progressive view of the child if that is restricted by the policies of the place within which we work. Does the family friendly restaurant provide the space for children to be heard? Does the children’s museum actually invite children to have a meaningful say? To what extent are children’s voices a real part of our actions in school, care settings and beyond? Giving Children a Voice offers practical steps through which a conversation can begin that brings rhetoric and reality into line and offers a platform for children’s voices to play a part in changing communities for the better.


How we talk about participation and what we mean by it, also impacts on the nature of the opportunities we are able to create. Step 3 offers adults a guide to developing a language for participation that can be shaped and framed, with children, in the context of their organisation/ community – for example a youth group, a health care or criminal justice setting. An important element of this is freeing children to shape the agenda as they are encouraged to develop research related skills.


Step 4 looks at the nature of opportunities themselves. It is all well and good us encouraging effective opportunities but what does an effective opportunity look like? By considering the ingredients of an effective opportunity it opens the door for both adults and children to pursue  the provision of opportunities that are meaningful and have the potential to result in positive change.


Advocacy relating to children has been driven by adults speaking out for the child. Giving Children a Voice challenges this approach to advocacy as it argues that it is only when adults work with children that the most effective outcomes can be found. Step 5 therefore looks at the role of adults in presenting and supporting children to be involved with a process of change. It lays out frameworks through which adults can construct an advocacy project that is focused on releasing the power of children’s voices to better inform and shape practices within a given context.


Giving Children a Voice states simply that effective advocacy with children is shaped by establishing the voice of the child and then creating the platform on which that voice can be amplified and heard. Effective advocacy does not need to be about widespread change, it is just as relevant in encouraging those small changes to the everyday settings where children and adults mix. A changed perspective of a teacher, parent, caregiver can have a significant impact on a child’s experience.


Giving Children a Voice is important at home, school, in care settings, criminal justice and court rooms, health care , shopping centres, recreational spaces and the list could go on. This book offers adults the chance to create opportunities for children’s voices to play the part they should in shaping communities for the better.


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Whose standards? What disadvantages?

Whose standards? What disadvantages?


A relevant question for 2018!


Standards are  important. However, if we wish to raise standards in education we need to know what standard we are looking to raise and who should be responsible for raising them.


What is clear is that our current definition of standards and our desire to raise ‘them’ is not having a positive impact on those children we might label ‘disadvantaged’. Notably some academics have assessed that concepts such as  ‘creativity and understanding’ sit outside of our current focus on standards in schools.


Encouragingly Ofsted are now focusing on the richness of the curriculum as they react to findings that the curriculum is narrowed for ‘disadvantaged’ children.


Sticking with the current system reflects, in the words of Professor Diane Reay that ‘England does not have an education system that is serious about realising the potential of all children…’ indeed she goes on to highlight the issues that children who carry a label of disadvantage face – click here for more.


It is, therefore, time to go beyond the targeted use of terms like ‘disadvantage’ and to think about a more generalised language arounddisadvantages’. For, in much of the work we are developing at the moment the focus is on recognising that we all face challenges in our learning, no matter who we are. Yes some children will face greater learning ‘disadvantages’ but by making disadvantages a term we all openly discuss in the classroom it removes a stigma and increases the opportunity for the practical search for learning strategies that can make a difference to the individual’s identity as a learner, a difference that can result in the individual increasingly taking control of raising standards for themselves!

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