Make (Good) Trouble teen reporter, Lola Ray, spoke to Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England, and asked her about her work as “the eyes and ears of kids in the system” during her six year term and her hopes for the future for young people. They discussed lockdown and how it’s affecting teens, parents and teachers.
Longfield says that her main focus in her six years as Children’s Commissioner for England, has been to “shine a light on those vulnerable kids. I really felt that they were so overlooked. Often invisible, if you like, to the services. They’re the children who fell through the gaps, got excluded from school, were in secure accommodation, the ones that were in secure accommodation. And in a way, the system couldn’t cope with the kids, rather that the kids couldn’t cope with the system.”
She calls for the government to look at these children’s situations, find these children and give them the support they need. She calls for there to be a vulnerable children and family recovery programme.
With school exclusions on the rise, Anne Longfield argues that schools should have a positive inclusion policy, whereby children that are excluded are helped to get back to their school as soon as possible. “I want them to be looking at when children need support and really providing that. If there is an exclusion, I want that to be a trigger… But if there is a reason why that child can’t continue in mainstream education… then I want them to get the best support they can… Alternative provision costs about six times as much as school per pupil. So we should expect it to be fantastic. We should expect it to be the best therapist, the best personal tutoring – all of those things to give to those kids who are having a tough time in school, the boost they need to get them back.”
Asked what she would do if she could make just one change to help young people, Longfield said: “I would like young people, and kids generally, to have their place at the top table, that they’re actually part of the decision-making and that there is a recognition that kids are 20 percent of our population but they’re 100 percent of our future. And if we fail kids, what does that mean for society in the future? Whether you think about it in terms of young people themselves, or indeed of all of us, we’re all going to benefit if we can give kids the opportunities they need and the springboard into adult life.”