Anne Longfield OBE gave a talk to sixth form students on the 6th September 2016
Sixth Form Assembly Speaker 6th September: Anne Longfield OBE
Our first keynote speaker in the Sixth Form this year was Anne Longfield, the Children’s Commissioner for England. The children’s commissioner for England is responsible for the wellbeing of children in England. She has a duty to promote awareness of the views and interests of all children in England, in particular those whose voices are least likely to be heard, to the people who make decisions about their lives. She came to talk to us about the work she has been doing since being awarded the job 18 months ago.
Ms Longfield opened her talk by describing her role to us, and emphasised that the people she answers to, ultimately, are children and young people in the UK. She is particularly concerned with young people who are in the care system - and indeed those who are being held in juvenile detention centres across the country. We were surprised to learn that, of the 900 children in prison at this moment, only 30 are girls. The Children's Commissioner role is to champion the rights and needs of all young people, irrespective of what they have done. She cited other countries' different attitudes to detention - in Iceland, for example, there are only two children in prison, and these two continue to attend mainstream education, in order to allow the punishment process to be as rehabilitative as possible.
When asked about the current migrant crisis, and in particular the camps in Calais, she told us about her recent visit, commenting that nothing could prepare her for the terrible conditions she found there, and in particular the proximity to popular and wealthy tourist destinations. She brought our attention to the work that volunteers can do to help these children: one story involved a seven year-old refugee, hiding in a lorry and crossing over to the UK. When it became obvious to him that he was running out of air, he was able to use a phone given to him by a volunteer worker and text that person for help. Fortunately he was reached before it was too late, but Anne Longfield was acutely aware that such stories don't always end well.
It became obvious at that point, that Ms Longfield's responsibilities actually span into the Continent and beyond: while the children of the UK are her priority, her aim is to improve the lives of all children in need.
Emily – Sixth Form Senior Prefect