Do Children have a Priverlidged Place in Society?

To be privileged suggests that children have an advantage within a society and are favoured over others. In addition, it suggests that children live full, healthy and happy lives, that they enjoy emotional stability and varied and enjoyable learning experiences. This essay will focus on whether young children in England have a privileged place in society in the twenty first century. Since the year ‘2000’ there have been a number of significant changes in government policy in the way young children are viewed, educated and their welfare protected, particularly in the early years phase of childhood.

This essay will explore how these changes have affected the child’s status within society and their quality of life by exploring how the child’s needs, rights and social context are addressed. Finally conclusions will be drawn to whether government policy ensures that all young children have a privileged place in England. In England there has been a rapid development of legislation, policy and initiatives to ensure that young children receive the best possible care and services and ensure a privileged place within this society.

Indeed, even the Queen’s Speech 2005 prioritised our youngest citizens with no less than four points addressing the welfare of children, education and family support. (The Guardian 2005) [online] The development of policy regarding children is informed by current social constructions of childhood. Towards the end of the last century, Rousseau’s romantic view of childhood dominated legislation and policy that put child concern and the protection of children at the forefront of social agenda.

The view that young children are vulnerable, innocent and need protection by way of rights and legislation was, and still is high on the list of government priorities and reflects concern at a national level stemming from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child 1989. Maynard and Thomas (2004, p88) agree with this suggesting that, “Children’s rights have become an increasingly important part of social and political discourse. ” ‘1997’ was a significant year as for the first time the government recognised a responsibility towards its’ youngest children and announced a National Childcare Strategy.

The largest component of this was Sure Start, the first government programme to target the birth to three age group. The Sure Start initiative is an area based programme and focuses in the most disadvantaged areas, offering some families support in the crucial years of children’s lives. Sure Start have evolved over the past few years and now their centres provide early education integrated with health and family support services, and childcare from 8am till 6pm. Jackson (2004) suggests that this is aimed at helping families, particularly single parents to return to work instead of relying on welfare payments.

Evaluation of Sure Start centres has shown, “small but significant improvements in outcomes for children – for instance, an improved language development in two year olds and reduction in parental anxiety. ” (Harris et al cited in Maynard and Thomas 2004 p. 93) According to Every Child Matters (2005) [online] the children’s centre network is being expanded indicating that, “there will be 2,500 centres across the county by 2008. ” Initiatives such as Sure Start recognises that there are inequalities in children’s lives in England, one of which is class, children who are born poor are disadvantaged in many ways from the more affluent classes.

Furthermore, Gittins (1998) would suggest that life chances are also largely determined by the colour of your skin. Thus childhood cannot be explored as a blanket term. Frones cited in James and Prout (1997 p. xiii) for example argued that, “There is not one childhood, but many, formed at the intersection of different cultural, social and economic systems, natural and man-made physical environments. Different positions in society produce different experiences. “

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