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What children and young people say

Introduction

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Having one’s voice heard is an integral aspect of participation. Yet ‘voice’ is a complex construct. It is not a fixed, internal characteristic, to be passed on and acted upon by others, but a product of social interaction, subject to change. In this unit we will discuss perspectives children have shared, as well as some of the ways their voices are shaped and how this process is intimately tied up with identity.

We will consider how the process of eliciting the views of children and young people influences what they tell us, and the ongoing construction of their identities. This process will vary according to what is being researched and which children are involved. Listening to disabled children and young people, children and young people from different cultures, and children and young people whose dialect or first language we do not share, for example, can present particular issues of access, communication and approach.

We will also consider how the power relations between children and adults, and our views about children and childhood, impact on the way we learn about, understand, and act upon what children tell us. We ask what difference children’s views and experiences make and how far their views are really taken into account when making decisions about the laws, policies and practices which affect them. We look at how far government consultations truly take on board the views of children, or whether they simply ‘tick the participation box’. We describe efforts to increase children’s influence on government.

Listening to children and young people is vital to the development of inclusive services, democratic society and a culture which respects human rights. We conclude the unit by reflecting on how we can use what we have learned to these ends.

This unit is an adapted extract from the course Equality, participation and inclusion: learning from each other (E214) [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

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