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Children's Voices Are Being Heard, Survey Suggests

5 November 2013

Professor Gillian Robinson, Director of ARK, University of Ulster

The old adage that children should be seen but not heard appears to be becoming a thing of the past in Northern Ireland, according to findings from the latest Kids’ Life and Times survey.

Around three out of four children who participated in the 2013 survey felt that their views were sought and were taken seriously in their school on issues including what they do in the classroom and how to make the school better, while four out of five children believed it was easy to give their views.

More than 3,700 P7 pupils across Northern Ireland responded to the online survey, which was undertaken by ARK, a joint initiative between the University of Ulster and Queen’s University, Belfast.

The survey included questions on children’s participation rights designed to assess children’s perceptions of how seriously their views are taken by adults in schools and within the wider community.

The results of the survey will be unveiled in St Ita’s Primary School on Wednesday 6 November as part of the national Festival of Social Science, organised by the Economic and Social Research Council.

The survey results suggest, however, that the wider community has some catching up to do. In response to the question ‘In my community the adults ask me for my views’, only around half the children agreed that this happened quite often, very often or always, while the other half said it happened seldom or never. Six out of ten children believed their views were taken seriously much of the time within the community.

Researchers from the Centre for Children’s Rights (CCR) at Queen’s University worked with six 10-year-old children from St Ita’s to develop the questionnaire as a way to measure children’s participation rights within society.

Lesley Emerson, Deputy Director of the CCR, said: “This approach seeks to ensure that children are engaged actively in the research process from the design of the questions through to analysis and interpretation of findings. It ensures that children’s views and children’s perspectives are placed at the fore of our research.”

Ark Director, Professor Gillian Robinson from the University of Ulster, said: “While we often hear what the public and the media think about the issues affecting children, we rarely ask the children themselves about these things. The Kids’ Life and Times survey gives children the opportunity to express their opinions and influence the policies and decisions that affect them.

“This is the sixth Kids’ Life and Times survey and, so far, around 21,000 children have been able to express their views on a range of issues that are important to them. By inviting respondents to suggest topics for the next year’s survey, we make sure that the issues covered are relevant to the lives of children in Northern Ireland today.

“As with all ARK surveys, the findings from the Kids’ Life and Times surveys are available on our website at along with a comic-style publication of results, specially designed for children.”

Joanne Browne, Principal of St Ita’s Primary School said: “The pupils have thoroughly enjoyed their work with CCR and as a school we were delighted to be involved in this project.

“Children’s participation in surveys, in particular assisting with the construction of survey questions on children’s rights, is crucial. This ensures that their perspective and opinions are better understood and valued. The six pupils feel so proud that their work has led to a very meaningful survey which engaged so many P7 pupils.”