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Leading children’s welfare expert speaks at KidsAid National Conference

A leading expert on children’s welfare has suggested that Michael Gove should be locked in a room and compelled to watch the television series Educating Yorkshire.

Dr Maggie Atkinson, Children’s Commissioner for England told a national conference on furthering understanding and help for vulnerable children that the Education Secretary had much to learn from the recent documentary series.

‘I would put Mr Gove in a closed room and make him watch Educating Yorkshire on a loop,’ said Dr Atkinson who was the leading speaker at the conference on Saturday, 26th October hosted by Earl and Countess Spencer at their Northamptonshire estate, Althorp House.

Other speakers at the event, organised by Northampton charity KidsAid, were TV and radio broadcaster Nicky Campbell, Northamptonshire Chief Constable Adrian Lee and experts in child psychotherapy, fostering and public health.

The conference audience, which included Countess Karen Spencer, Patron of KidsAid and workers in education, social work, law and medicine, applauded Dr Atkinson’s view that Mr Gove should be made to watch the C4 fly-on-the-classroom-wall series that concluded last week, to gain a real insight into pupil behaviour and the challenges faced by schools when dealing with troubled children.

‘School is not just about the subjects of the national curriculum, it’s about deeper and bigger things than that,’ said Dr Atkinson. ‘It’s really serious that we get to these children where they are and that we understand that what’s going on in their lives is complex.’

She added that seven out of 10 of England’s 12 million under 18-year-olds experience huge pressures causing them to be ‘rocky’ in their emotional health and well-being. Stress factors range from coping with bereavement, illness or disability in the family, poverty, domestic violence, family breakdown and neglect.

‘Many schools struggle to deal with children who don’t fit the mould,’ said Dr Atkinson. ‘As a society we stigmatise mental and emotional health and well-being issues. Most children in this country are absolutely fine, even with difficulties and challenges in their lives. They are well parented, well brought up, loved and nurtured and looked after. It’s the ones for whom that does not apply – those children in our communities who will be the next generation of Samaritan clients, young offenders, incarcerated mental health patients that we have to get it right for.’

* KidsAid is a charity employing therapists who use play, drama and art therapy and psychodynamic counselling to treat children suffering from difficulties triggered by traumatic events including family bereavement, domestic violence and other forms of abuse.