19th July 2019

My work experience fortnight at the Children’s Commissioner’s Office

Before I begin I just like to introduce myself. I’m Jade. I wasn’t sure what skills or talents I could offer, because to my knowledge I don’t have any, but it turns out that being under the age of 18 was a huge advantage, unlike in literally every other setting, so my input was useful. I hadn’t really heard anything about the Children’s Commissioner’s Office. In my eleven years of education not once has children’s rights been mentioned in any way unless I bit the bullet and put my hand up.

I saw and heard all the injustices under 18s were facing specifically because they were under 18

Try as I might to research the topic I couldn’t really get anywhere. I read the newspaper, watched the news and most importantly I saw and heard all the injustices under 18s were facing specifically because they were under 18. What infuriated me the most was that it was treated like it was normal. No one questioned it and there was nowhere to get a second opinion because as we all know it’s a universal law that “children must be seen and not heard”. I was angry and I wanted answers.

If I had to single out my first big Eureka moment of the past fortnight here, it is that all our suspicions in school, complaints and grievances with the school system are actually based on fact. Contrary to popular belief *cough* amongst parents *cough*, schools aren’t always looking out for the best interest of students.

I wasn’t quite sure what would happen. I didn’t know much about the department and people seem to be talking a lot about Brexit these days so I was interested to hear about children’s issues.

I went to a meeting with Nadhim Zahawi. I even went there in the car with the Minister and his private secretary. The meeting was about children in care. One thing that surprised me was that Mr Zahawi was very friendly. I took a picture and he shared it on his Twitter.

Then I met with Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England. I asked Anne about whether she thinks politicians care about children, and I asked about Personal, Social, Health and Citizenship Education (PSHCE). Anne said she thinks it needs to be a more important part of the syllabus. In Year 10 we don’t have a proper lesson, we just do it in form time.

I also asked if parental controls on the internet were condescending to children or helpful.  Anne felt it was the internet provider’s responsibility to protect children first and foremost.  I also asked why pink lights are still legal. I found this interesting because I know government is interested in young people’s self esteem, but pink lights show blemishes and zits to keep children away from shopping centres.

I visited 10 Downing Street. It looked just like it does on the TV. It reminded me of Dr. Who’s Tardis because it was so much bigger on the inside than it looked from the outside. We had to leave our phones and bags downstairs. This event was about knife crime. I saw Theresa May talk on stage about knife crime. There are lots of reasons young people join gangs but one way to combat it is to give more things for young people to do. She said that kids often didn’t know about jobs in their local area, but even then, being part of a gang gets you more money quickly so we need to combat this.

Some of these social media sites have no idea what is going on, on their own sites

In my second week I attended a Ministerial meeting with Anne Longfield. Three Cabinet Ministers were there and the subject was social media and online harms. What surprised me the most is that some of these social media sites have no idea what is going on, on their own sites. One particular site said how their online community was very friendly but I know this site is infamous for people giving very mean threats like telling you to do harmful things to yourself.

Before I came here I didn’t know much about the Office of the Children’s Commissioner and I think it would be good if they found even more ways to ask children about their opinions. For example, children might have opinions on their curriculum that they want to share.

I will remember that everyone has been very nice to me and it’s a lot calmer than I expected. I have enjoyed my work experience.

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