Headteacher calls for childhood debate

A PROMINENT education figure has backed calls for a national debate into childhood in the 21st Century.Geoff Barton, headteacher of King Edward VI School, in Bury St Edmunds, is one of 110 professionals who have signed a letter highlighting the pitfalls of modern life for youngsters.

A PROMINENT education figure has backed calls for a national debate into childhood in the 21st Century.

Geoff Barton, headteacher of King Edward VI School, in Bury St Edmunds, is one of 110 professionals who have signed a letter highlighting the pitfalls of modern life for youngsters.

The correspondence, which was sent to a national newspaper, also explores the more serious side of childhood today such as an increase in depression.

Mr Barton, who has two children, aged 13 and 11, said parents need to take a close look at what society feeds its youngsters, from junk food to computer games.


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“I am not trying to make judgment, but I feel there is more we can be doing,” he said.

“The nature of childhood appears to be changing because of adult perceptions, and I think sometimes parents are not quite sure what the boundaries are that we should be setting for our children.

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“The good thing about this letter is that is has not just come from educational professionals, but from a much more broad range of people.”

The letter has been signed by people belonging to a wide range of professional backgrounds, from university professors, to authors and historians.

It talks about society's failure to keep sight of children's emotional and social needs, the rise in substance abuse, violence and self-harm amongst our young people, the inability for youngsters to properly adjust to rapid technological and cultural changes, and the need for real play and first-hand experiences of the world.

It also calls for action to be taken to improve the well-being of children, and for the launch of a public debate on child rearing.

Mr Barton, who runs his own English resource website for teachers and students, said he hopes the letter will get people thinking about the way children are being brought up in today's society.

He said: “Society is continually changing, as are some of the social structures, and there is a danger of letting children stay out later, and do what they want.

“Children these days seem to spend more and more time on their own watching television and playing video games, and their level of social interaction is being jeopardised. Sometimes, as adults, we expect children to behave as adults too early and they are losing their ability to have an imagination.

“People need to look at the nature of childhood, and what we should be doing so we do not allow ourselves to be juggernauted along by technology and social expectations, and instead let children be children.”

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