I attended and spoke at a conference organised by Children in Scotland this morning in Cumbernauld. The theme of the event was improving the life chances of our children and young people.
I was speaking on education for citizenship and A Curriculum for Excellence and enjoyed covering ground that goes beyond the ICT/Technology area that I usually cover. I am passionate about the importance of citizenship in education and delighted that ‘responsible citizen’ is one of the four capacities of the new curriculum. Schools are working hard to involve children and young people in decisions and are increasingly interpreting citizenship in a very broad way to include environmental, community, health and enterprise activities. At the conference the majority of attendees felt that active citizenship was encourage more now than when they were at school. However, a significant minority thought that the situation now was no better or even worse than their own experience at school. There is still some work to be done to ensure that every learner has the opportunity not only to learn about citizenship but also to exercise their rights as active citizens when they are at school.
The highlights of the morning included:
Prof. Alison James, University of Sheffield
She reminded us that childhood is a social construct and culturally located. She used the example of the Norwegian nature kindergarten where 3 and 4 year olds use sharp instruments to cut wood, light fires and cook their own food.
Sue Palmer author of ‘Toxic Childhood’
This is the kind of stuff that sells newspapers and books and makes parents feel guilty but not convinced that it sheds a lot of light on modern life. Having said that I really must read her book before being too critical. Sue picked out 10 areas of childhood life that need to be ‘detoxed’ including diet, communication and of course technology. She is also strong on the pressure that the marketeers exert on children and the need for the kind of good old fashioned parenting that your granny would have exercised!
Prof Stewart Forsyth, Ninewells Hospital, Dundee
Great talk on the facts of childhood obesity, teenage pregnancy etc. Stewart also discussed how the health, diet and drug habits of the mother impact on the child, ‘toxic childhood starts in utero’.