20 December 2010
Endings and new beginnings
Last week was about endings, beginnings, successes, and planning for the future.
I was interviewed by a longstanding children's champion from the Children's Rights Alliance for England (CRAE). The charity is launching a new magazine in January created for young people and by young people on their rights . However, this first edition could be the last, because the grant funding that supports it may not be repeated. The interviewer from CRAE was confident, searching and pointed in her questions, and I think the magazine will be great if her approach is a sample. Fingers crossed it isn't both a start and a finish!
Teenage pregnancy rate concerns
I went to the House of Lords for an event to mark the publication of the Teenage Pregnancy Independent Advisory Group's (TPIAG) final report. The group has now closed but the work it has fostered with teenagers on relationships, self esteem and the right to advice and guidance will continue. C4EO, who we work with, and which collects and disseminates solid evidence of what works in all children's service areas, is taking on some of the role to keep personal, health, citizenship, sex and relationships education to the fore.
But there was real concern, some of it expressed by two TPIAG/Brook young advisers, that without care and attention to these vital issues we might lose momentum and focus, and teenage pregnancy rates might increase, not go on decreasing. One young adviser said: "All children and young people need a voice in what happens in their lives, and it needs to be heard by you adults. The issues TPIAG has dealt with included!" As I told him, he was quoting Article 12 of the UNCRC, and among others I'm here to help make sure that voice is heard!
Challenging negative perceptions
On Friday I was at the Duchess's Community High School in Alnwick, North Northumberland. Their local paper gives the school column space every week, and some time ago I caught an article in which a teacher challenged the adults in this scattered, complex, rural and coastal part of the county about media prejudices against teenagers.
Such issues are a focus for us at the Office of the Children's Commissioner too, so I contacted and thanked her, and received an invitation to visit! I attended an event to celebrate all that the school, and its federated partner school, do: in exams, sporting triumphs, drama, arts, music, community endeavour, respect and responsibility as well as developing children and young people's rights and voice and encouraging real service to their neighbourhoods. On a freezing Friday afternoon a hall full of adults heartily applauded their young citizens, some of them now working or at university but back to celebrate successes and look to their future. I can't think of a better thing to do than celebrate how fantastic our young people are, and to challenge the stereotypes they battle against.
Last blog of the year
This is the last Commissioner's blog of 2010. On my own and the Office of the Children's Commissioner's behalf I wish everybody the very best for the season, whichever of the many midwinter festivals you celebrate. Here's hoping for a happy, peaceful new year, re-dedicated to hearing and acting on the voice of the child in society. Until January, my very best wishes to all!
By Maggie Atkinson, Children's Commissioner for England