What price children's happiness?

It was disappointing that the report from the United Nations children's fund (Unicef) on the state of UK children's health, behaviour and inappropriate risk-taking was not on your front page (TES, February 16).

This shows how little Britain values its children compared with just about everywhere else. Those of us at the chalk-face know that supposed better ranking in education is only due to teachers becoming better at coaching students to pass tests, rather than any real improvement in learning.

Unicef points to failures in parenting, societal and media pressures and a "dog-eat-dog" attitude, all of which need urgent remedy. But education also plays a major role in which it is failing miserably. Dr Anthony Seldon wrote recently in The TES to ask: "What on earth is the purpose of education, and why are we not making a better job of defining it, and then designing schools to meet those objectives?"

In last week's TES we also read "No thaw on attitudes to risk", closely following on Sir Digby Jones's column, "Competitive future calls for a bold generation of risk-takers" (TES, February 9). The Unicef report clearly shows how young people in the UK are denied controlled risk-taking opportunities because of litigation fears. Then, when they create their own opportunities, they take ridiculous risks with drugs, alcohol, sex and gambling.

We must decide what is more important: to maintain the status quo, producing huge wealth for lawyers, short-term results for politicians and lucrative jobs for so-called education experts, all to the detriment of children's happiness and the UK's success; or should we, as Dr Seldon suggests, question what children should know, who they should be and what they should be able to do? These are the most vital questions facing us, and how we deal with them will determine all that follows.

So, more money for the fat-cats and jobs for the boys, or happier, healthier and safer kids and a successful UK?

The aims of modern schools, page 30

Andy Dukes

The Wey Valley school and sports college, Weymouth, Dorset

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