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The Childhood Policy Landscape in England: a case study

By Naomi Eisenstadt CB

This case study will describe key developments in policy related to childhood in England over the last four decades.

Government policy both reacts to and shapes social norms. Policy relating to children is particularly sensitive as it impacts on that most personal of issues, family life. The policies described below include duties and rights for parents, as well as government activity aimed at children themselves. While activity across the decades has been concerned with child outcomes, that is, what a good childhood can contribute to children becoming productive tax paying adults, little attention has been paid to the quality of childhood itself, and the rights of children to a good life. Except in the extremes of abuse and neglect, the debates on the nature of schools, youth services, and wider community services have rarely addressed the quality of the experience for the child during childhood. Even more rarely have they included children themselves in the debates.