Damian Hinds has been branded "naive" after claiming that this is the "best time ever" to be young.
The education secretary was speaking on BBC TV this morning as he announced trials of techniques for schools to use to help pupils with their mental health.
He acknowledged the negative effects of social media on children's mental health, and said he was concerned about the effects on his own children, but added that “in many ways, 2019 is the best time ever to be young.”
Mary Bousted, joint-general secretary of the NEU teaching union, said the claim “wasn’t true”, citing “a massive increase in child poverty” as well as "huge waiting lists" for CAMHS (child and adolescent mental health services), along with the “complete cutback” of youth clubs and activities for children and young people in many council areas.
She also referred to the schools funding crisis and the “huge increase in stress” caused by overtesting of children.
She added: “The idea that the next generation will have a better future than the current one is not prevalent now. I’m sure the secretary of state would like this to be true but he’s simply being naive.”
Recent research by the NEU also uncovered 'distressing' levels of poverty, including rising hunger and problems with housing among schoolchildren.
A Department for Education spokesperson said Mr Hinds would not be expanding on his remark, nor explaining in what ways 2019 was the best time to be young.
Geoff Barton, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders, said: “School and college leaders, and their staff, work incredibly hard to make sure that every year is a good year to be young.
“They are not helped in that job by an education funding crisis that is making it incredibly difficult to provide the curriculum options, enrichment activities and individual support their pupils need and deserve.
"If the government wants to make sure that 2019 is the best time ever to be young its first step should be to improve school and college funding as a matter of urgency.”