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Parents wouldn't swap with today's confident kids

Study shows they envy the self-assurance that schools instil but feel they had more freedom

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Modern-day schools boost children's confidence and help them speak up in class, a study by the Institute of Welsh Affairs and BBC Wales has found.

But the adults interviewed still would not swap their own childhood with youngsters today - even if, in their day, they were expected to "be seen and not heard".

Researchers asked children, their parents and grandparents from three primaries in Cardiff, the Valleys and north-east Wales about their experiences of growing up.

One mother said her children were much more confident than she was at their age and it was "down to what they do in school".

"They're encouraged to speak in front of a group, whereas I would have died," she said. Another child's grandmother agreed: "I can remember trying to hide my head when it was my turn to read because I hated to read out to the whole class, but teachers never do that now. That's not the way you teach them - you teach them to boost their confidence."

Speaking at a conference to promote the research, John Osmond, the institute's director, said the adults interviewed felt they had a better relationship with their children than they had experienced with their parents.

Dr Sally Holland, of Cardiff University's Childhood Research Group, said barriers between children and adults had come down: "There's much less `children should be seen and not heard'. It's not the case everywhere, but there has been a sea change in our attitudes towards children."

But despite positive comments about childhood today, every parent questioned said they would not swap with their children because they had the freedom to play. Fears about traffic accidents and "stranger danger" made parents reluctant to let their children play outside.

They were also concerned about the breakdown of family contact and children growing up too fast.

When asked about the future, Year 6 pupils were particularly concerned about transferring to secondary school. Boys in particular were worried about being bullied.

But parents and grandparents said there was much more support available than when they were at school.

Mr Osmond said parents in Cardiff, where there was greater choice of secondaries, did not relish having to pick one for their children.

One mother said: "I just want the local school to be good and for them to go there. I don't want to suddenly discover religion and have to send them somewhere else."

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