Key words: Student voice, democratic participation, egalitarianism, meritocracy, commodification, consumerism, post-modernism. 1 Every Child Matters ?
In 2003, the Government published the green paper ‘Every Child Matters’ (ECM); this was published alongside the Climbie report (2003). The ECM (2003) emphasis’s four key themes: supporting families and careers, child protection, multi-agency collaboration, and ensuring that the people working with children are valued, rewarded and trained. The Every Child Matters (2003) green paper also identified five outcomes that are most important to children and young people: being healthy, staying safe, enjoying and achieving, making a positive contribution and achieving economic well-being. These five outcomes are universal ambitions for every child and young person, whatever their background or circumstances. Following wide consultation with children's services, parents, children and young people, the Government published Every Child Matters: the Next Steps in November 2004, and passed the Children Act (2004), providing the basis for developing more effective and accessible services focused around the needs of children, young people and families. The recently formed DCSF (Department for Children, Schools and Families) echo’s the points made in ECM (2004) and seeks to ensure that all children and young people stay healthy and safe, secure an excellent education and the highest possible standards of achievement, enjoy their childhood, make a positive contribution to society and the economy, have lives full of opportunity, free from the effects of poverty. These outcomes are mutually reinforcing. For example, children and young people learn and thrive when they are healthy, safe and engaged. The DCSF also aim to raise educational standards so that more children and young people reach expected levels, lifting more children out of poverty and re-engaging disaffected young people. This is particularly applicable to my practice as the socio-economic circumstances of most of my students disadvantage them. Most of my students live in Camborne, Pool, Redruth and Hayle. These are widely recognized as deprived areas regarding economic opportunities, high number of single parent households, low employment prospects, and the majority of employment being minimum waged, relatively insecure, part time, seasonal or flexi time. (SDRC 2004). This relates back to ECM (2003) in that this seems to be applied in context of the geographic and demographic circumstances of children and young people. For example, a student from a poor single parent household in a deprived area with high crime rates who participates in underage smoking and drinking may be majority behaviour or the ‘norm’ in certain subcultures in Camborne, Redruth, Pool and Hayle but would attract more attention and concern in a more affluent area where this was not the ‘norm’.
2 We Could be Left Behind
In every decade children are maturing physically earlier than before resulting in a constant shortening of childhood in a biological and social sense. This has a converse repercussive effect involving the constant lengthening of childhood in an educational sense.(Cunningham 2006) This is reflected in the proposals in the DfE (Johnson 2007) report Raising Expectations: staying in education and training post-16 are highlighting the need to continue study for 14-19 year olds and by 2015 the school leaving age will be increased to 18 years of age. The reasons the government have given for such policies being implemented are illustrated by the secretary of education; Johnson (2007:3) when he said ‘ the undeniable truth is that if a young person continues their education post 16 they are more likely to achieve valuable qualifications, earn more and lead happier, healthier lives’.
A seeming contradiction to Johnsons (2007) policy of staying in education longer and its benefits have been researched by Walker and Zhu (2003:145) who...
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