This is my childhood: there will be no other

This is my childhood: there will be no other

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‘This is my childhood: there will be no other’ was the title of a conference I attended today in Bristol run by BASPCAN (British Association for the Study and Prevention of Child Abuse and Neglect) and DNA (David Niven Associates). It was all about the importance of early years intervention and the fact that those very formative years, between 0-3 particularly, shape the rest of a persons’ life. There were some interesting speakers and it was great to meet with a diverse group of individuals all aiming to help and support children and families in our current complex society.

As I was driving home I began to think about my work and just how difficult our educational system is at the moment in this country. All the debates and discussions coming from the government seem to be against helping vulnerable children – longer school days, less teaching assistants, shorter school holidays,   move from modular to linear assessments and now this week a debate around children starting school as young as 2 years old!!

It is a complex issue with many variables; those children who are in a challenging home environment may of course be more nurtured within a good educational environment, as long as the staff understand the needs of the child. However I know with children who have experienced early trauma (such as looked after and adopted children) and now are trying to attach to other adults, the more time they can spend in their new home environment the better. Being with lots of other adults in school can only add to the stress and fear they already feel.

Children need to be allowed to be children. Another debate I’ve heard today about child minders bringing more education into their care of the very young children just baffles me. Surely children have little time these days to actually play without the madness of health and safety. I know I’m not that old but when I think of how we played when I was young it was nothing like how it is today. We lived near a wood and I would go out all day with my friends playing in the wood only coming back when hungry. We also lived on a new estate where houses were being built – lots of scaffolding and empty shells to run around – we absolutely loved it and yes my friend did fall through some floorboards once and break her leg but we all survived. Of course I was probably about 12 years old when we were doing these things not under 3, but when I think about children from difficult home environments quite often they do not know how to play. Their little lives have been so thwart with chaos and no-one has taught them to play.

If we start pushing children like this into educational environments without them learning to play and without them building relationships with the significant people around them, they will miss out on the joy and freedom of being a child. When I look at my children sometimes free in their expressions of joy and pleasure it makes me smile as I know there are few moments like that for them. My daughter particularly who was 5 when she went into care very often has a frown on her face – I can remember the times when that frown has disappeared and there is a lightness about her and it’s usually due to play – the uninhibited play that comes from knowing you are safe, loved and cared for.

So I’m sure the debates will continue and whatever is decided from the current government those of us trying to make things better for children and families will persevere – we will continue to do all we can to educate, encourage and engage people in this much needed cause. It really does take a village to raise a child – something we can all participate in wherever we are and whatever we are doing.

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