During the last few days, Dame Rachel de Souza, the Children's Commissioner, published the findings of a survey carried out to understand the views and feelings of young people during the challenges of the pandemic. The Big Ask was designed to get children to speak in their own words, and to express their views on childhood during this difficult time. Over half a million responses came in - an extraordinary number, and a depth of expression that has rarely (if ever) been matched. The media continues to talk about a lost generation, battling to overcome learning loss, and a generation that is more divided than any before. The message that came back from children, of all backgrounds and experiences, was not one of despair, but one that demonstrated hope, resolve and commitment to positive change.
Resilience, independence, pragmatism, endurance and ultimately optimism were at the heart of the responses that The Big Ask received. This is not to understate the hardship that some have endured, the losses that have been suffered, and the hurdles that have been faced. But we all know that challenge is necessary for progress, and out of the difficulties of the last 18 months, young people appear to appreciate more the need for social interaction, and have a greater interest in how we can do better in the future.
We have all seen the increase in issues of mental health, but young people also know that they deserve better, and are prepared to speak out to get better. They want to be mentally and physically healthy, and get back to playing sport. Sport matters, but not just sport for competition, sport for enjoyment and participation is high on the list for many. Community and friendships can make a real difference, and this generation is focused more on putting right the injustices, the prejudice and the inequalities of society than we might have imagined. While it might not be the thing to say out loud, young people want to be in school! We have seen that this term, with even the least forthcoming of teenagers expressing a degree of happiness to be back in school, with friends, and part of their community. The caring professions are a goal for more young people now, as a result of what they have seen over the last eighteen months. Some even want to be teachers!
There are big issues to face, such as climate change, covid debt, NHS overload, increasingly unequal societies and bipartisan political extremism. These are big issues to consider, and it is easy to give up because it looks so hard, but in one of the recent Felsted Talks podcasts, Howard Dean (a former US Presidential candidate, and Felstedian) quotes Lao Tzu (the ancient Chinese philosopher) as saying:
"The longest journey begins with a single step"
and this is how we can support our young people to maintain their optimism and determination for the future, without being overwhelmed. Where they want change, and feel daunted, remember to take that first step, and see where you can get to in time. Walk with them, and you will be amazed at what they can achieve. As I have said before, I see a strong, resilient and hugely impressive generation, who, with the right support and encouragement, are ready to make a real difference here at Felsted, and more widely as well.
Have a very good weekend,