Sir Al Aynsley-Green describes the “the lunacy of educational policy in England today” in his new book The British Betrayal of Childhood

A LEADING activist for children’s rights has called on students to play a part in transforming a system of schooling in England that he claims is not fit for purpose. The country is “perverse and difficult” in its attitudes to young people, according to Sir Al Aynsley-Green.

He is a leading clinician in children’s health who has been President of the British Medical Association and Children’s Commissioner for England. He came to the University of Huddersfield – which has awarded him an honorary degree – to speak during the annual Finding a Voice conference, at which third-year Childhood Studies undergraduates give presentations describing their research projects. 

In a special session – which included input from students and guest experts - Sir Al said that he was completing a book titled The British Betrayal of Childhood, and he spoke about what he described as “the lunacy of educational policy in England today”. The focus on SATS, literacy and numeracy destroys childhood, he claimed.

Former Children’s Commissioner labels schooling in England as “not fit for purpose” at student conference

He probed history – including child exploitation during the Industrial Revolution – and argued that the past “teaches us about English society’s callous disregard for children, especially the poor and the sick”.

Sir Al said the issue of childhood was vital because of the “Old Age Dependency Ratio”.

“We need healthy, educated, creative and resilient children with the life skills to thrive as parents and productive adults. This should drive Government policy but it doesn’t,” said Sir Al, who praised child rearing policies in countries such as Finland.

He also spoke about the issue of bullying – which would confront students when they started teaching careers – and about his passionate belief in the importance of providing support to children who had suffered loss of a parent or loved one. “There a huge unmet need for many adults to come to terms with childhood bereavement. Death is a reality for every school,” said Sir Al.

The 2018 edition of Finding a Voice – now in its fourth year – was opened by the University Pro Vice-Chancellor for Teaching and Learning, Professor Christine Jarvis, who praised the module behind the conference.

“At this university we help you grow into the kind of professionals who do far more than carry out a set of instructions – we want you to think for yourselves and we want you to be strong advocates for children and young people,” said Professor Jarvis.

“At a time when there are far too many children living in poverty the differences between health and educational achievement between the poorest children and the richest is all too stark. We need professionals of the future who will speak out, who will do their research, who will make spaces for the voices of children and young people, professional who will challenge injustice and find a way to make policy influence the decision makers.”

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Former Children’s Commissioner labels schooling in England as “not fit for purpose” at student conference
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