The NASUWT has been leading on a critical debate on the future of childhood with the Fabian Society and leading thinkers and policymakers.
In the report supported by the NASUWT, Growing Up in the 2020s: Preparing children for the changes and challenges ahead General Secretary Chris Keates, Shadow Education Secretary Angela Rayner, Children's Commissioner Anne Longfield and others draw attention to the key issues affecting the next generation of children and young people.
The essays look both inside and outside the classroom, with topics ranging from participation in the arts, to voting in elections – and from building resilience to enhancing entrepreneurial skills.
Below is NASUWT General Secretary Chris Keates' conclusion to the seminal report.
The NASUWT believes that the United Kingdom should be the best place in the world for children and young people to grow up. But too much of the current focus on education policy is short-term, focusing on structures or discussions around standards for schooling.
Education policy should be longer-term in approach. We need a broader conception of the nature and purpose of education, and this must be underpinned by a determination to support children and young people. This would allow for a more purposeful reflection on what education and wider services might look like in the future.
This reflection needs to be based on the changes, challenges and opportunities that will be encountered by children and young people in the 2020s.
A key change will be the the enormous technological challenges and opportunities facing children and young people as they grow up. This will require flexibility as we prepare for a world unknown. Dealing with these changes cannot only come from within schools but also from society’s overall approach to children and young people.
Austerity will have negative impacts
But the challenges are not just technological, as this report demonstrates. The impact of policy decisions taken in this decade on the lives of children and young people in the next decade and beyond will need to be addressed. Austerity, for example, will continue to have a negative impact on children. The result of cuts to education and educational support services, including those relating to special educational needs, will be keenly felt.
The lives of too many children and young people have been impoverished and that will continue to take its toll in the 2020s. This will be compounded by cuts to service provisions beyond schooling that were designed to support children and young people, including Sure Start and youth centres.
Changes to education policy and schools provision have also led to the loss of dedicated and committed teachers. This has driven a recruitment and retention crisis. Additionally, too many children and young people are left at the mercy of marketised provision in education, which has limited access to opportunity on the basis of ability to pay and has restricted social mobility for many, particularly the poorest.
Critical time for debate
The future is uncertain and the education policy arena is deeply contested. This is the critical time to have a debate about the future we aspire to for our children and young people.
We need to focus on the nature of change, and the challenges and opportunities facing children and young people. We must also offer solutions in order to develop policies that provide happy and healthy childhoods which lead to happy, healthy and engaged citizens.
Without an alternative vision for our children and young people, there is a genuine risk that future generations will be consigned to lives that are less rewarding, productive or worthwhile than those of their parents and grandparents.