Every Child Matters

The five aims of the UK Government’s Every Child Matters (DfES 2004a, b, 2005) are for children to:

  • • Be healthy
  • • Stay safe
  • • Enjoy and achieve
  • • Make a positive contribution
  • • Achieve economic well-being

While these are certainly laudable aims, they might be seen as rhetorical in the light of the actual material and psychological situation of Britain’s young people after the decade of the Blair Government. In a recent UNICEF report of twenty-one industrialised countries issued on St. Valentine’s Day (UNICEF 2007), the UK came joint-last with the USA for ‘child well-being’ (see Cole 2009c for a discussion). That this is the case and why it is the case should be part of schools’ implementation of Every Child Matters. Introducing dialogue on this in schools needs to make links to the capitalist economy and capitalist priorities.

In addition, while Every Child Matters’ aims are clearly concerned with the welfare of children and young people in the UK, there is scope here for adding an international dimension. For example, under ‘being healthy’, children and young people could learn about global health issues, and examine what eating healthily means to children in the ‘developing world’ (Smith, cited in Jewell 2006, p. 4). For ‘being safe’ they could learn that safety for children is enshrined in human rights, but that safety depends on where children and young people live, and the political and economic context in which they find themselves (Smith, cited in ibid.). For ‘enjoy and achieve’, children and young people can realise that achievement can transcend personal success and can contribute to making a difference in society. Finally for ‘achieve economic well-being’, they can learn about global capitalism, and ‘how we are rich in the West because other areas of the world are poor’ (cited in ibid.). With respect to this final point, while it is of course demonstrably true, ownership of wealth in the west is relative, as witnessed by the UNICEF (2007) report, and many people are very poor in the UK too.

Internationalising Every Child Matters should crucially include an examination of what such a concept has meant for nearly half a century in Cuba, and what it means in the context of the Bolivarian Revolution in Venezuela, in the context of developments in Bolivia and elsewhere. Internet makes this eminently possible.

In this chapter I begin by critiquing some classroom pedagogies which are informed by CRT. I then went on to make some suggestions, based on Marxism, for promoting equality in the school classroom. I concluded the chapter by discussing communities, local and global, and values and justice. In the Conclusion to the book, I will try to draw some of the arguments of this book together.

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