Young children's citizenship: Ideas into practice

Carolyn Willow, Ruth Marchant, Perpetua Kirby and Bren Neale

An exploration of how children’s citizenship – their entitlement to recognition, respect and active participation in society –can be built into everyday practices and relationships between adults and young children.

The idea of listening to children and encouraging their participation has become a familiar part of the policy landscape, but making these activities productive for children themselves remains a significant challenge, particularly when it comes to the youngest members of our society. At a time when provision and support for children is high on the policy agenda, this report offers a timely reminder that even young children have needs that go beyond care and protection.

The two core papers in the report review current developments in including young children in discussion and decision making. Willow surveys over 100 public sector initiatives that involved children of primary school age and reflects upon their effectiveness. Marchant and Kirby focus on how to build participation into routine interactions between adults and children in every day settings so that it is not simply ‘tacked on’ to organisational structures. In the concluding section, the report considers a range of practical issues that need to be addressed if citizenship for young children is to be more effectively integrated into professional policy and practice.

One of the key findings of this report is that listening to young children is not enough, and may prove counterproductive if it is not based on effective communications and followed up with meaningful responses. If an ethos of participation for young children is to develop effectively then this will require a focus not just on children, but on the training and support needs of adults.

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