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

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What children and young people say

4.2 Making a difference

4.2.1 Influencing government

Drawing attention to the increasing interactions between children and government, in the form of meetings, forums, and so on, Carolyne Willow urges caution in assessing how genuine such events really are:

We need to be vigilant about the purpose and practice of these interactions: are they an extension of the politician kissing baby photo opportunity or, worse, relished as fresh terrain to socialise and control children. Have adults created a new object of attention – ‘the participatory child’ – that leaves intact the unequal allocation of power, knowledge and resources, and allows us to colonise even more of children’s time, thoughts and space[?]

(Willow, in press, p. 11)

In 2008, the government commissioned research into the views of disabled young people on the impact of the legal duty to promote disability equality in schools (Rieser, 2008). Eleven workshops were conducted, involving disabled students from 26 schools in eight local authorities, including non-verbal children. Figure 5 summarises participants’ views on aspects of school life.

Disabled children’s views on school life
(based on figures from Rieser, 2008, p. 12)
Figure 5 Disabled children’s views on school life

Notice the spread of positive and negative ratings in the table. Each aspect was explored further in the research. The issues emerging in relation to school buildings were lifts breaking down regularly, overcrowded corridors, heavy doors, lack of readable signage, poor access to playgrounds and play equipment, and poor classroom layout. Negative ratings of school trips were associated with expense and lack of support and accessible transport. Poor ratings of other children related to bullying, and there was evidence of isolation in mainstream schools with unit provision where disabled children spent considerable time away from their peers. This research informed the report of the Secretary of State for the DCSF on progress towards disability equality in the children’s and education sector (DCSF, 2008b). However, it is difficult to see how the children’s views are acknowledged and taken into account. The report appears to focus largely on positive progress, good practice and commitments.

Hearing what you want to hear
Figure 6 Hearing what you want to hear

Activity 3 The outcomes of participation?

Consider the two lists of outcomes below. Consider how your participation in activities has impacted upon yourself, your peers, your workplace and community. Have you experienced children and young people participating at the same level as you have? How did you assess their degree of involvement? Which of the outcomes listed below do you feel have resulted for these children and young people? Make notes.

Table 2 Outcomes

As part of a Department of Health research in practice series, Ruth Sinclair and Anita Franklin (2000) summarise the reasons for participation as follows:In a study of seven schools across England, which have tried to embed pupil participation (Davies et al., 2006) the following positive outcomes of participation were identified:
  • to uphold children’s rights; fulfil legal responsibilities
  • to improve services; to improve decision-making
  • to enhance democratic processes
  • to promote children’s protection
  • to enhance children’s skills
  • to empower and enhance self esteem.
  • self-esteem and confidence
  • interpersonal and political skills
  • agency and efficacy
  • broad issues of school ethos, atmosphere, belonging and trust.
  • better teacher-student relationships
  • school organisation enhanced
  • the running of the school, with more informed decisions made
  • community improvement.
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