‘History will judge us by the difference we make in the everyday lives of children. There can be no keener revelation of a society’s soul than the way in which it treats its children.’ Nelson Mandela
My views on how children were treated during the pandemic are well-known. Sadly, many of my fears have been realised – the damage of lockdown all too clear in the day-to-day lives of too many of our children.
Today, it would appear that councils up and down the country view children in much the same way as the UK governments did during the pandemic.
Of course, we live in difficult financial times. The phrase ‘cost of living crisis’ is omnipresent: on our televisions, in social media, on radio and in the press. I think by now, most of us get it. Times are tough, money is tight and workers the length and breadth of the country are yearning for pay resolution that show they are valued.
All of that is clear. But children, once again, are the ones that get the roughest deal of all. Perhaps children should strike.
Perhaps they should strike against council cuts coming their way sometime soon.
Some of the proposals are already out there: significantly reduced hours of face-to-face teaching in our schools; reduction in support staff; cuts to mental health budgets; removal of music and art tuition in primary schools; subject choice reduction in senior schools; removal of grants to outreach programmes; removal of grants to art and music therapy; closure of libraries and leisure centres and even a suggestion of schools running a 4-day week.
Everyone has the right to make their feelings known. Everyone has the right to feel valued. Everyone has the right to voice their opinions. Everyone has the right to express their concerns through industrial action.
But what about the rights of children?
If councils need to save money, then make cuts to any area that does not negatively impact on children, far too many of whom are already seriously disadvantaged. And if cuts can’t be made, then councils need to consider raising local taxes. Hugely unpopular at a time where money is tight, I know, but as a society, we need to make decisions that put the everyday lived experience of our children at the heart of policy and at the heart of the decision-making process.
Nelson Mandela was right. Judge society by the way it treats its children.
Our society, currently, doesn’t appear to be getting that judgement right.
21 February 2023