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The Big Ambition survey is a new large-scale consultation from the Children’s Commissioner for England, Dame Rachel de Souza. After the Children’s Commissioner’s The Big Ask in 2021, it is the second largest survey of its kind, with engagement from nearly 367,000 voices.

In three years, this office has gathered close to a million responses from children on how they feel, and what their experience of growing up in this country is like. The Big Ambition focuses on what needs to change in England to make childhood the best it can be.

This is the story of what children have said.

March 2024

Over half a million children responded to The Big Ask in 2021. They were veterans of the pandemic, and it seemed fitting to refer to them not as a snowflake generation, but as a heroic one.

Most reported that they were happy, but it was clear they were in urgent need of support to recover from the effects of a global crisis.

Three years have elapsed – enough time to assess how effectively these needs have been responded to.

Part of the rationale for this new survey has been to learn more about children’s experiences during this critical time, and what more they think the government should do to make their lives better.

“I’m only 12 and don’t actually know much about the government but maybe they can try and make surveys like this (maybe every few years) to see how our lives are doing … and how we’re genuinely feeling because I’ve been unwell in a way where my heart feels almost empty… I’m glad I have someone to talk to about my life but I can only tell them over text… Maybe I wrote too much in this paragraph but I hope my message is seen. Thank you!” | Girl, 12

If The Big Ask report was a song of innocence – of hope for recovery, for back-to-normal – The Big Ambition is a song of experience. If the theme of the first was ‘listen to children,’ the challenge of the second is one of belief.

“I always try my best at school and I want to get a good job. Will I be able to do that?” | Boy, 8

Belief should come easily to children.

Stories are where they come alive. In the narrative of The Big Ask report, the pandemic was the dragon we needed to slay. Our mission was clear – an easy cause to believe in.

But in 2024, belief seems to be a more fragile business. Do we believe in ourselves? In our dreams, and our capacity to realise them.

Do the people around us – parents, teachers, politicians – believe in us too?

Do we believe that where we live is a place of promise? Or a place that keeps its promises?

Are the stories we tell ourselves as a nation based on fact, or myth? Or, perhaps more importantly, do they move us forward, or hold us back?

The Big Ambition starts to answer some of these questions. But any understanding would be incomplete without considering the events of the three years since The Big Ask – a tumultuous time for England, and the world.

Read the full story of The Big Ambition, written for the Children’s Commissioner by Patrick Alexander, in the report below.

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