Today is the first National Children’s Day UK organised by the Save Childhood Movement, designed to raise awareness of the need for a natural childhood, and share good practice.

Many other countries celebrate the rights of children on the 20th of November  – the United Nations nominated day. However, it was felt that it is really important that British children should be able to get outside on Children’s Day, into their neighbourhoods and nature, so it was decided to hold it at the beginning of the summer.

Save Childhood stated,”Childhood is precious. It creates the values, mindsets and dispositions that determine our interaction with the world around us for the rest of our lives. Children, therefore, have one very special right – and that is the ability to be able to develop, naturally and happily, to their full potential. National Children’s Day UK is dedicated to helping ensure that this can happen.”

The Save Childhood Movement is a growing collaboration of individuals and organisations that share a deep concern about societal values and wellbeing and the current erosion of natural childhood. It has a particular interest in how modern culture impacts the values and mindsets of children, especially in the early years.

The movement aims to identify and highlight those areas of most concern, to protect children from inappropriate developmental and cultural pressures and to fight for their natural developmental rights. It also aims to provide a critical platform for dialogue and debate, to identify examples of inspirational practice and to help source innovative and future-focused solutions.

A newly released survey of early years and primary professionals, released at the launch summit of the Save Childhood Movement on the 27th and 28th of April and prepared in partnership with the Barrett Values Centre, has revealed an enormous disparity between the values that teachers feel are important for the education system and what is actually going on.

  •  While 67% of those surveyed thought that education should be child-centred as a matter of priority, only 2% thought the current system fulfilled that.
  •  While 60% of respondents thought creativity should be prioritised, less than 2% thought the current system supported it.
  • And while 50% believed that education should emphasise the importance of play, only 2% thought the current system did that.
  • Only 2% of respondents thought that the current system cultivated a passion for learning, and 0% believed that it fostered empowerment.

When asked which words best described the current state of British education as they experienced it, the most common words were: focus on targets, bureaucracy, results focus, top-down pressure and adult agenda.

In contrast, when asked which words they believed should characterise education, the words most commonly chosen were: child-centred, creativity, importance of play, passion for learning and empowerment.

The gap between the values held by the practitioners themselves and those of the education system as a whole revealed a level of ‘Cultural Entropy’ (meaning the degree of dysfunctional or fear-driven behaviour) that the Barrett Values Centre terms “a critical situation requiring leadership changes to avoid organisational failure”.

The survey examined the values of 177 early years professionals including childminders, nursery and primary school teachers and headteachers, school governors, lecturers and academics and was conducted between the 10th and the 17th of April, 2013.

Wendy Ellyatt, the CEO of the movement, shared her own deep concern about the current situation –
“It is simply unacceptable that there should be such a disparity between the values that teachers themselves hold and the systems that we are then asking them to work within. How we can expect them to be the creative, spontaneous, passionate and empowered adults that we really need around children when they are constantly ground down by the demands of the system? We need something better and the movement is determined to help fight for this.”

The movement hopes to soon extend this survey to include a much more significant percentage of the teaching profession.

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