New ChildFund survey reveals how safe children feel at school

Sydney, Australia, 16 November 2016: One in three children in Australia have concerns about their safety at school, according to new global survey from international aid group ChildFund Alliance.

While children almost universally agree that education is important, the survey found close to a third of respondents in Australia (29%) said their school is only ‘sometimes’ safe (in line with the global finding of 31%) – citing bullying among their greatest concerns.

ChildFund’s seventh annual Small Voices, Big Dreams survey provides a snapshot of children’s views on education and safety at school, in both developed and developing countries. This year, more than 6,000 children aged 10-12 in 41 countries took part – from Afghanistan to Cambodia to Zambia – highlighting often striking similarities and differences between children in different parts of the world.

Commenting on the results, Nigel Spence, CEO of ChildFund Australia, said: “Wherever children live in the world, they clearly recognise the value of education – particularly for improving their job prospects. But we can’t lose sight of the fact that every child has the right to learn in a safe environment, and one in three children are telling us we are falling short of the mark.”

Children surveyed in Australia most commonly characterised safety as having preventative security measures in place (46%) – ranging from ‘out of bound’ areas, to protection from strangers, to supervision by teachers; while 43% of children described feeling safe as not being the target of physical or emotional abuse or violence, with many children referring to ‘no bullying’.

Natasha, age 10, said being safe at school “means that no one is getting hurt physically and mentally and emotionally; no one is having troubles with bullies and other careless people.” For Jock, age 12, safety at school means being “free from bullies in the playground and in the classroom.”

By comparison, in developing countries, 21% of children said being safe at school means school buildings and facilities which are clean, safe and in good repair – with this response being highest amongst children surveyed in India (58%), Ethiopia (55%) and Bangladesh (54%).

How children would improve education if they were Prime Minister

Young people also have lots of ideas about how they would improve education in their country if they were in charge. For children in developing countries, their first priority would be building and improving schools (56%), followed by providing students with uniforms, books and stationery, and equipping classrooms with books and technology (31%).

Children in Australia are more interested in modernising the curriculum (49%) to widen the range of subjects available and make learning more interactive and fun.

“Kids in Australia talked about bringing in more non-academic subjects, such as sports, creative arts, indigenous culture and the environment, and subjects that would prepare them for real life, like finance and cooking,” said Mr Spence. “A number of children also mentioned a more hands-on, interactive approach to learning with greater opportunities for kids to have a say.”

Interestingly, children in Australia were equally as concerned as their peers in developing countries about providing greater financial support for schools and students (both 25%). More than a quarter of children in developing countries would also improve the quality of teaching through better pay, more staff and more training (27%).

Nearly half of all children surveyed in Afghanistan (48%) said they would improve education by stopping war and bringing peace to their country, compared to just 1% of children globally.

“The Small Voices, Big Dreams survey reveals that many of the children polled believe their education is in need of improvement,” said Meg Gardinier, Secretary General of ChildFund Alliance. “They are worried about issues ranging from unsafe facilities, disaster protocols and lock-downs, to weapons, drugs and bullying in schools. These are not issues children should have to contemplate. School should be about learning, not about fears for their personal safety.

“The fact that so many children do not feel safe at school is of great concern, as safety is a prerequisite for learning,” added Ms Gardinier. “ChildFund Alliance is committed to doing all we can to provide children around the world with a safe, quality education.”

Key findings at a glance

  • Children almost universally said education is important to them (98%).
  • One in three children globally (31%) said their school is not always a safe place.
  • Almost two-thirds of children in developed countries (64%) said education is important ‘because it will allow me to get a good job when I grow up’ – compared to 40% of children in developing countries.
  • In developing countries, 20% of children said school was important ‘because having an education will help me care for my parents’, compared to 6% of children in developed countries.
  • Almost half of children in developed countries (48%) said what they love most about school is being with friends’, while the top response from children in developing countries (51%) was ‘learning new things’.
  • As Prime Minister, almost half of children in Australia (49%) would improve education by modernising the curriculum, while more than half of children in developing countries (56%) would prioritise building and renovating schools.
  • Children in Australia were equally as concerned as their peers in developing countries about providing greater financial support for schools and students (both 25%).

Download the full report here: Small Voices 2016 Report

20 October 2016: Over 30 international development organisations and Australian-based social welfare groups, including ChildFund Australia, the Australian Council of Social Service (ACOSS) and the Campaign for Australian Aid, have called on the Australian government to take meaningful action to fight domestic and global poverty.

In an open letter to Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull during Anti-Poverty Week, the 36 signatories state: ‘No Poverty is the number one UN Sustainable Development Goal that the Government signed in 2015. Those goals apply globally and here in Australia. We urge you to commit the Government to ending poverty here in Australia, while also doing our fair share as a good global citizen to ending poverty globally.’

Currently, Australia has no established national definition of poverty, and the letter urges the Government to immediately adopt the OECD poverty line, set at 50 per cent of median income. Dr Cassandra Goldie, CEO of ACOSS, said: “Most alarmingly, 17.4 per cent of all children in Australia are living in poverty, an increase of 2 percentage points over the past 10 years.”

And while the number of people globally living on less than $1.25 a day has been reduced by almost half during the last decade, approximately 836 million people still live in extreme poverty.

CEO of ChildFund Australia Nigel Spence said: “Six million fewer children die today than in 1990. Australian Aid has contributed to this achievement, and we have much to be proud of.

“But consecutive budget cuts to the aid program has reduced Australia’s support to developing countries to the lowest level in our history. If we are serious about addressing poverty, we need a solid plan of action that recognises the value of investing in programs that improve living standards for all children, both in Australia and our wider global neighbourhood.”