In my view: Why let children take part?

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Involving children and young people is no longer an optional extra. National developments such as Every Child Matters and the Children Act, set in the context of international policy like the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, mean we have to talk with them and listen to them.

Work from the DfES from Exploring the Field of Listening and Consulting with Young Children indicates that even very young children develop higher self-esteem and better social skills as a result of being listened to. The impact spreads into families and their perceptions of the capabilities and insights of their children. This is particularly true with special needs children. The benefits of involvement have led to calls by the House of Commons Education and Skills Committee for the Government to back a statutory basis for school councils.

The Children's House Nursery in Lincolnshire used observation, children's photography and group discussion to inform the design of a new nursery building. The children wanted to see outside; windows were lowered and enlarged to ensure that they could see and wave to their parents. Drive Park Nursery in Stirling used happy and sad faces on pictures of activities and nursery areas. Intended to inform a redesign, after discovering that children were being pressured into activities they didn't like by their more confident peers, this led to a programme to teach children how to say no and compromise.

Participation seriously engages children and young people with things that affect their lives. Participation is a child's right and it shows them the respect they deserve. It also connects children to those responsible for their care and improves service delivery. We all need to see the world through the eyes of a child.

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