16th June 2022

The Children’s Commissioner’s visit to Ark Boulton Academy for the Family Review

One of the most enjoyable parts of my job is that I get to meet inspirational children and see fantastic schools. And at today’s visit to Ark Boulton Academy – I got to do just that.

It was a pleasure to speak with a group pupils from the Ark Boulton Academy about family and what family means to them. You never really know what you are going to get when talking to children about topics that are complex and challenging and today’s session was another reminder of how thoughtful and articulate this generation are.

When I asked what family means to them I got an outpouring of honest, profound and thought-provoking answers.

They told me of the importance of school in their family unit – that they couldn’t imagine a life without their teachers. This was something that shone through when you walk around the school and talk to the staff.

They talked about their own families with authenticity and told us of the importance of having safe spaces to go in their local communities. These children trusted me with some personal and not-always-easy emotions around a subject that I think we do not talk about enough.

I felt inspired. In a way similar to ‘The Big Ask’, children today proved once again that we are dealing with a generation that care about their families, their schools, and their communities. Discussions like these remind me why we must continue to amplify children’s voices in policy creation.

I then got to speak with some mothers who had children at the school and their views on family chimed with what the students had told us. They worried about their children becoming involved with crime and not making the most of their talents. They saw family extended to the school, to the teachers, all there to take care of their children and support them in navigating the trickier parts of growing up.

Throughout the visit, the wonderful Head Teacher Herminder and the staff told me of their mantra: ‘To love their children as if they were their own’ and this was clear. The children and parents I spoke to felt part of a bigger family and community and it was truly a privilege to see it for myself.