Sunday, 16 December 2007

England - The Best Place in the World to Grow Up...

Last week my ears pricked open with interest while I was pottering around the house with the news on the TV in the background.

The BBC were reporting on “The Children’s’ Plan – a new £1bn, 10 year strategy for education, welfare and play.” The vision of this seemingly revolutionary strategy is simple – to make our country the best place in the world to grow up.

Click here for the full report:

This item of news is very close to my heart. I’m 35 years of age, and as yet I haven’t had any children. Why? Well it’s quite simple really. Bringing up a child in England quite literally scares the pants off me!

Parenting has to be one of THE most difficult jobs in the world ever, and I’m sure the rewards can be equally as monumental. BUT – it seems to me that English parents have untold pressures that reach far beyond the already daunting prospect of simply being responsible for another person’s life.

What kind of income do people bring in to achieve all of the following?

1. Buy a house in today’s property market. The smallest of houses can leave you stressing over bringing in enough cash to make the payments, let alone a house that's large enough to bring up a family.

2. Fashionably furnish it and fill it with all the latest technology that your children will need in order to be on an equal par with their friends and the demands of the education system.

3. Buy your children nice clothes and the toys they long for so much because their friends have all got them.

4. Pay for school trips & hobbies

5. Save up so that you can send your child to university

Unless one of the parents is very successful it seems to me that both parents (if they're fortunate enough to still be together) will need to bring in above the national average to achieve all of these things. If they’re both working hard to earn over the national average – what time will they have left to be parents??

Given the facts and the reality of what it takes financially to bring up a child in England – I always end up feeling depressed at the thought of it! Of course, you can take another stance, and say that you will educate them on consumerism and how they can’t always have what they want – but that approach seems increasingly difficult and challenging in today’s society. In fact, that approach seems even more challenging than working your socks off to give them what they want!

So – getting back to the new strategy announced last week, wow – have they finally got it?? Well, there are some great things in there; such as more play areas, more support for parents, reviewing the sats and stuff like that. BUT, I was completely disheartened by what seemed to me, an obvious indication that they hadn’t quite got it. There was continuous reference to providing a “World Class Education System”, so that children could flourish and reach their potential.

This constant drive in England to be THE best in the world at absolutely everything is surely at the root of the pressures, stresses and mental health problems that are prevalent today.

Now – I’m very competitive myself, and I always strive to be the best, so I do have an element of conflict over my own opinions on this subject. But I have to ask – what would it be like to simply BE! Why do we have to be the best? And how much easier would it be for children and parents if England were to withdraw from the race to power and the competition to be THE best country in the world at absolutely everything?

What about aiming to be the happiest and most content nation in the World? How about striving to become a nation that doesn’t worry about their position in comparison to the rest of the world? How about aiming for emotional strength, fulfillment and self sufficiency?

Is it possible, that such a relaxed approach would lead by default to England becoming the best country in the world to live?

I know it’s not as simple as that, but I would love to hear your views – particularly if you’re a parent.

If you’re a parent in another country what’s it like for you?


21st Century Mummy said...

As a parent, I definitely share your concerns. The over commercialisation of our society is something that I really have a major hang up over and as for house prices...don't get me started on that one.

I am in a very lucky position, having bought our first house just before prices got really silly at the end of the 90s and our family is lucky that my husband earns enough for me to be at home and just focus on my part time initiatives.

Education is another matter. We are very lucky again to be on the doorstep of an excellent school with a fantastic ethos and a brilliant Ofsted report.

Where we are our luckiest though is that we feel that we can pass on a stable foundation of security and good values to our children, for them to continue to be inspired, constantly learn, enjoy play and want to achieve economic well-being.

To provide that for children that's a key challenge for the country.

Ben said...

England's not a bad place to grow up. Yes, there is a materialistic culture, but it is possible to live on a small budget as long as you do not mind renting your home. It's a reasonably tolerant place, and the climate is not too bad (in the summer it's great).

So I'm quite happy to stick around with my two small kids - for the time being. But that doesn't mean that other places and cultures have a great deal to offer and when they're a couple of years older we'll be off!