What children and young people say
What children and young people say

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What children and young people say

4.1 The impact of listening to children

A review by Alison Clark and colleagues of consultations with young children found that the impact of listening occurred at a number of levels, summarised in the following table:

Table 1 The impact of consultations with young children

LevelGroupImpact
IndividualChildren
  • Changes in everyday experiences, e.g. being allowed to do new things or changes to their environment
  • Raised self-esteem and confidence
  • Acquisition of new social or practical skills
Practitioners
  • Feeling enabled and encouraged, e.g. to continue promoting child participation
  • feeling the benefits of working more democratically with children – e.g. not having to know all the answers
Parents
  • increased awareness of child’s competencies
  • Raised expectations for child
Institutional
  • Opportunities to reflect on practice, e.g. rethinking relationships, routines and activities
  • Changes to policies
  • Changes to the environment
Strategic
  • Dissemination of local projects
  • Organisation of special consultations, e.g. bringing the views of young children to the attention of strategic planners
(Based on Clark et al., 2003)

The review found the impact at strategic level to be less well documented than at other levels. The study also identified potential negative impacts from consulting with young children, including a lack of clear purpose and commitment to implementing the findings.

Asking children what they think, but taking it no further will send a message that there is little real interest in their view.

(Mooney and Blackburn, 2002, quoted in Clark et al., 2003, p. 45)

It also highlighted the risk that the drive to listen to and consult children could become an exercise in surveillance rather than consultation.

Rudduck and Flutter (2000) have also questioned the motivations behind listening to children:

Are we ‘using’ pupils to serve the narrow ends of a grades-obsessed society rather than ‘empowering’ them by offering them greater agency in their schools?

While this course would, hopefully, not represent such an approach, the position put forward by the authors is not value-free. You may wish to consider the motivation behind the selection of views presented in the course so far.

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