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The Big Ambition for Education

After a period where schools were closed for most children, children and young people repeatedly spoke about their desire to return to the classroom, to be reunited with their friends and teachers. They wanted to go back to school; to return to a reassuring normality and reengage in education.  

This generation clearly prizes education. They see it as important in and of itself, but also as a pathway to opportunity, whatever path they choose to pursue.  

The Big Ambition results show that children still deeply value their education – 60% said they like going to school, but this figure is down from The Big Ask when 84% said they were happy at school or college.  

However, they do still see the importance of going to school or college and understand that working hard now will help to set them up for success in later life. The majority of children enjoy being in school or college, they find learning fun, and take great pride in their schoolwork.  

Children are grateful for the brilliant teachers in their schools and colleges. Nearly three quarters of children said that they had great teachers who supported them. Children in schools with high levels of free school meals eligibility were even more likely to agree with this statement 

These results pay testament to the hard work of teachers and school and college staff across the country. However, for a large minority of children, this not the case. The results from The Big Ambition show that the proportion of children who enjoy going to school falls as children get older and that children with SEND are less likely to say they enjoy school. These children do not always enjoy going to school and often struggle to access the additional support they need to engage in education.  

Responses to The Big Ambition show a marked drop in attitudes since my first piece of work back in 2021, The Big Ask, when 84% of children said they were happy at school or college. It highlights the mixed picture when it comes to children and young people’s experiences of education:  

“I think school is a great place for us to go every day and we learn new things, which I will forever be grateful for.” – Girl, 14. 

“Understand SEND and hold local authorities to account when they let us down, I am unable to go to school due to needs. I have physical where after 5 mins I am unable to walk and my social anxiety, but they took my funding away and said school or home ed only.” – Boy, 16. 

“Teachers need to be taught about neurodivergence and that some things can be overwhelming to people that might not be overwhelming to them. School needs to be fun not a source of panic and stress.” – Boy, 12 

There can be a variety of reasons why children struggle to access education, but children aren’t absent from school because they don’t want to learn. On the contrary, they are desperate to learn but everyday thousands of children find themselves without the support that they need to engage in education and attend school. They have told the office about the barriers they face to accessing the support they need in school and about the reforms they want to see to make schools better, more engaging and fun. 

I have set out the five over-arching outcomes I want for every child in The Big Ambition, namely that they are safe, healthy, happy, learning and engaged in their community.  

There are four over-arching principles that the Government should prioritise in their education reforms. These are: 

  • Every child has access to a brilliant education.  

  • Every child attends and is engaged in school every day.  

  • Every child who needs additional support to engage in education can access it easily.  

  • Every disabled child or child with special educational needs, and neurodiverse child receives excellent, joined up healthcare, social care and education. 

You can read all my recommendations for how we can achieve each of these ambitions in The Big Ambition report.  


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