OpenEye October 2011

Time to arrest the Erosion of Childhood
Letter page and lead headline in the Daily Telegraph, Saturday 24th Sept, 2011
Dear Letters Editor, 

SIR – Five years ago, your newspaper published a letter signed by more than 100 experts, arguing that children’s well-being and mental health were being adversely affected by modern technological and commercial culture. Since then, several high-profile reports on the state of childhood in Britain have agreed that our children are suffering from a relentless diet of “too much, too soon” – with Unicef finding Britain to have the lowest levels of children’s well-being in the developed world, and Britain coming out near the top of international league tables on almost all indicators of teenage distress and disaffection.

Although parents are deeply concerned about this issue, the erosion of childhood in Britain has continued apace since 2006. Our children are subjected to increasing commercial pressures, they begin formal education earlier than the European norm, and they spend ever more time indoors with screen-based technology, rather than in outdoor activity. 

The time has come to move from awareness to action. We call on all organisations and individuals concerned about the erosion of childhood to come together to achieve the following: public information campaigns about children’s developmental needs, what constitutes “quality childcare”, and the dangers of a consumerist screen-based life-style; the establishment of a genuinely play-based curriculum in nurseries and primary schools up to the age of six, free from the downward pressure of formal learning, tests and targets; community-based initiatives to ensure that children’s outdoor play and connection to nature are encouraged, supported and resourced within every local neighbourhood, and the banning of all forms of marketing directed at children up to at least age seven.

It is everyone’s responsibility to challenge policy-making and cultural developments that entice children into growing up too quickly – and to protect their right to be healthy and joyful natural learners. Top-down, political approaches to change always have their limitations, no matter how well-intentioned. It is only by coming together as a unifying voice from the grass roots, therefore, that we can hope to interrupt the erosion of childhood, and find a more human way to nurture and empower all our children. 

Signatories (228)

Dr Richard House, Dept of Psychology, University of Roehampton
Baroness Susan Greenfield, CBE, FRCP (Hon), Senior Research Fellow, Department of Pharmacology, University of Oxford
Agnes Nairn, Professor of Marketing at EM-Lyon Business School, France and author of the recent UNICEF report on child wellbeingTim Smit, CEO,Eden Project 
Philip Pullman, author
Oliver James, clinical psychologist
Camila Batmanghelidjh, founder of Kids Company
Jonathan Porritt, founder- Forum for the Future
Robin Hanbury-Tennison, OBE, explorer
Rt Revd Tim Stevens, Bishop of Leicester 
Margaret Morrissey OBE FRSA, founder of
Penelope Leach, Ph.D, C. Psychol, FBPsS, Institute for the Study of Children, Families & Social Issues; Birkbeck. University of London
Sue Palmer, author of Toxic Childhood
Susie Orbach, psychoanalyst and writer
Professor Rita Jordan BSc., MSc., MA., C.Psychol., PhD, OBE, Emeritus Professor in Autism Studies, University of Birmingham
Barry Sheerman, MP, Chair of the Education Select/Parliamentary Committee, 2001-10; Professor, Institute of Education, London; Chair of the Skills Commission
Professor Peter Abbs, University of Sussex 
Susanna Abse, CEO, Tavistock Centre for Couple Relationships, London
Pat Adams, Childminder since 1987 
Kay M. Albrecht, Ph.D., Innovations in Early Childhood Education, Inc., Tomball, TX 
Priscilla Alderson, Professor Emerita of Childhood Studies, Institute of Education, University of London 
Joan Almon, Founding Director, US Alliance for Childhood 
Neil Arksey, children’s author
Professor Martin Ashley, Head of Research, Edge Hill University Faculty of Education
Paul Atkinson, psychotherapist
Stevanne Auerbach, Ph.D. Dr Toy
Simon Baddeley MA, visiting lecturer, School of Government and Society, University of Birmingham
Robin Balbernie, infant mental health specialist
Geoff Barton, Headteacher, King Edward VI School, Suffolk
Dr Teresa Belton, Senior Research Associate, School of Education and Lifelong Learning, University of East Anglia
Steve Biddulph, psychologist and author
Christine Blower, General Secretary, National Union of Teachers
Professor Liz Bondi, University of Edinburgh
Dr Mary Bousted, General Secretary,Association of Teachers and Lecturers 
Kevin J. Brehony, Froebel Professor of Early Childhood Studies, University of Roehampton
Sir Tim Brighouse
Richard Brinton, Director of Hawkwood College, Stroud 
Pat Broadhead Ph.D., Professor of Playful Learning, Leeds Metropolitan University
Sarah Brook, patron for childhood
Annette Brooke, MP, former Liberal Democrat Children’s spokesperson
Mick Brookes, former General Secretary, National Association of Head Teachers 
Greg Brooks, Emeritus Professor of Education, University of Sheffield
Dr Onel Brooks, Department of Psychology,University of Roehampton
Dr Fraser Brown, Reader in Playwork, Faculty of Health & Social Sciences
Leeds Metropolitan University
Ron Butterly Ph.D., Principal Lecturer in Exercise Physiology, Leeds Metropolitan University 
Sandy Campbell, founding director, Working Rite 
Tanith Carey, author of Where Has My Little Girl Gone? How to Protect Your Daughter From Growing Up Too Soon 
Fiona Carnie, Vice President, European Forum for Freedom in Education
John Carnochan, detective chief superintendent, co-director Scottish Violence Reduction Unit
Theresa Casey, play consultant and author, President of the International Play Association: Promoting the Child’s Right to Play
Marie Charlton, independent educational consultant
Jean Clark, great-grandmother, retired psychotherapist, Fellow of the British Association for Counselling and Psychotherapy
Professor Guy Claxton, Co-Director, Centre for Real-World Learning, University of Winchester
Christopher Clouder, Director, European Council for Steiner Waldorf Education
Anne Cooke, Clinical Psychologist
Paul Cooper, Founder Member, National Children’s Football Alliance
Alex Coren, University of Oxford
Nicki Cornwell, Children’s author
Ros Coward, Professor of Journalism, University of Roehampton
Carol Craig, CEO Centre for Confidence and Well-being, Glasgow
Rhona Cunningham, Fife Gingerbread
Fiona Danks, ‘Going Wild’ – books bringing the natural world to children;   
Mike Davies, Human Scale Education
Professor Robert A. Davis, Head of School of Education, University of Glasgow 
Gloria DeGaetano, author, Parenting Well in a Media Age; Founder, The Parent Coaching Institute
Dr Harbrinder Dhillon-Stevens, Senior Lecturer, Chartered Psychologist, Counselling Psychologist, Child Art Psychotherapist
Christine Doddington, Senior Lecturer in Education, University of Cambridge
John Dougherty, children’s author, parent, former teacher
Margaret Edgington, Early Years educational consultant and trainer
Dr Richard Eke, School of Education,University of the West of England
Peter Elfer, Principal Lecturer in Early Childhood Studies; University of Roehampton
Susan Elkin, journalist, author of Unlocking the Reader in Every Child, former teacher
Wendy Ellyatt, Independent writer and researcher, founder of the Unique Child Network
Ricky Emanuel, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychotherapist, and Head of Child Psychotherapy, Royal Free Hospital, London
Colin Feltham, Emeritus Professor of Counselling Studies, Sheffield Hallam University
Anna Firth, Councillor and full-time mother
Julie Fisher, Independent Early Years Adviser
Dr Peter Fitzsimons, educational management consultant (Australia)
Peter Flack, Assistant Secretary, National Union of Teachers in Leicester; school governor
Irène François, Program Director, Rudolf Steiner College, San Francisco
Canon Dr Giles Fraser, St Paul’s Cathedral
Philip Gammage, Emeritus Professor, University of Nottingham 
Natalie Ganpatsingh, Director, Nature Nurture
Sue Gerhardt, psychotherapist, author of The Selfish Society 
Melanie Gill, forensic psychologist, founder of The Mindful Policy Group
Christopher Gilmore, A United Press Writer of the Year, 2010
Sally Goddard Blythe, Director of the Institute for Neuro-Physiological Psychology (INPP) 
Lavinia Gomez, Forum for Independent Psychotherapists and UKCP 
Aonghus Gordon, Founder and Director of Ruskin mill Educational Trust
Mike Greenaway, Director, Play Wales
Steven Groarke, Member of the British Psycho-Analytical Society; University of Roehampton
Philip Gross, Professor of Creative Writing, Glamorgan University, poet (winner, CLPE award 2011, Wales Book of the Year 2010, T.S. Eliot Prize 2009)
Martin Hardiman, Director West of England Steiner Teacher Training
Tobin Hart, Ph.D., Professor of Psychology, University of West Georgia
Gerry Hassan, writer and commentator on Scottish politics
Sylvie Hétu, writer, trainer, Founder of the Massage In Schools Programme
Russell Hobby, General Secretary, National Association of Head Teachers
Patrick Holford, CEO, Food for the Brain Foundation
Lois Holzman, Ph.D., East Side Institute, New York City
Grethe Hooper Hansen, former director of the Society for Effective Affective Learning (SEAL)
Dr Christopher Houghton Budd, Centre for Associative Economics and Visiting Lecturer, City University, London
Susan Howard, Coordinator of the Waldorf Early Childhood Association of North America (Spring Valley, NY); Co-ordinator, International Association for Steiner-Waldorf Early Childhood Education (Stockholm); Director, Waldorf Early Childhood Teacher Education, Sunbridge Institute  (Spring Valley, NY)
Peter Humphreys, Centre for Personalised Education
Marguerite Hunter Blair, Chief Executive, Play Scotland
Dr Barry Hymer, Visiting Professor of Education, Cumbria University; and Co-director, Centre for Wise Education
J. David Ingleby, Emeritus Professor of Intercultural Psychology, Utrecht University
Lynne Jamieson, Chair, 21st Century Families, East Kilbride, Scotland
Jane Johnston, Reader in Education, Bishop Grosseteste University College, Lincoln
Frances Kane, Leader of Association Administration, Association of Waldorf Schools of North America
Graham Kennish  BSc (Hons), Educational Consultant/Trainer 
Suzanne Keys, Counsellor, Newham Sixth Form College
Rupert Kingfisher, Children’s Author
Professor Saville Kushner, School of Education, University of the West of England
Dr Simon Kuttner, Ph.D., Clinical Psychologist
Martin Large, publisher and author
Neal Lawson, Chair, Compass, author of All Consuming
Professor Lord Layard, Director, Well-Being Programme, Centre for
Economic Performance, London School of Economics & Political Science
Dr John Lees, Senior Lecturer in Mental Health, University of Leeds
Mary Leue, childhood advocate, founder of The Free School, Albany, New York
Diane Levin, Ph.D., Professor of Education, Wheelock College, Boston, Mass.
Pauline Lindsay, supply teacher and former Primary School Teacher
Professor Del Loewenthal, Director, Research Centre for Therapeutic Education,University of Roehampton
David Lorimer, Programme Director, Scientific and Medical Network
Caroline Lucas, Leader, Green Party
Neil McClelland, Former Director, National Literacy Trust; Vice Chairman, Surrey Care Trust
Karyn McCluskey, co-director, Scottish Violence Reduction Unit
Iain McGilchrist,  Former clinical director at Bethlem Royal and Maudsley Hospital and author of The Master and His Emissary 
Ian McGowan, Co-director, The Movement and Learning Centre, Scotland
John McKendrick, Board of Directors, Play Scotland; Senior Lecturer, Glasgow School for Business and Society
Ian McLaughlan, Chief Executive, Scottish Pre-school Play Association
Vimala McLure, founder of the International Association of Infant Massage, writer
Susan Mairs, School Librarian, Co Antrim 
Dr Elena Manafi, Chartered Counselling Psychologist, Programme Director, DPsych, Regent’s College, London
Dr Ana Marjanovic-Shane, Assistant Professor of Education, Chestnut Hill College, Philadelphia, PA
Dr Peter Martin,  CPsychol,  AFBPsS, Chair of the BPS Division of Counselling Psychology
Mildred Masheder MA, author of Positive Childhood and Recapturing Childhood
Dr Brien Masters, Director of the London Waldorf Teacher Training Seminar (1983-2009) 
Richard Masters, Manager, Hermes Trust
Eugene Matusov, Ph.D., Professor of Education, University of Delaware
Patrice Maynard, M.Ed., Leader, Outreach & Development, Association of Waldorf Schools of North America, Ghent, NY
Professor Trisha Maynard, Chair of TACTYC, Director of the Research Centre for Children, Families and Communities, Canterbury Christ Church University
Ed Mayo, co-author, Consumer Kids 
Dr Roland Meighan, Trustee of the Centre for Personalized Education
Gabriel Millar, therapist and teacher
Edward Miller, Executive Director, US Alliance for Childhood
Faisal Mohammed, Muslim Education and Outreach, Cambridge
Richard Monte, Children’s Author 
Dr Lyndsey Moon, Senior Lecturer in Counselling Psychology, University of Roehampton
Bel Mooney, writer
Brian Moses, Children’s poet 
Professor Emeritus 
Janet Moyles, Early Years and Play Consultant
Lucy Musgrave, Director, Publica
Mrs Pauline Myers, National Chairman, Townswomen’s Guilds
Dr Ute Navidi, Chief Executive, London Play 
Janni Nicol, Steiner Waldorf educational consultant
Vincent Nolan, Trustee, Synectics Education Initiative
Michel Odent MD, Primal Health Research Centre
Lynne Oldfield, Director London Steiner Waldorf Early Childhood Training Course, author of Free to Learn
Peggy O’Mara, Editor-in-Chief, 
Professor Timothy O’Riordan, OBE
Dr Jayne Osgood, Reader,Early Childhood Education, London Metropolitan University
Professor Stephen Palmer, Director, Coaching Psychology Unit, City University London; co-author of Coping with Stress at University: A Survival Guide
Rod Parker-Rees, Associate Professor in Early Childhood Studies, Plymouth University
Philip Parkin, General Secretary, Voice – the union for education professionals
Alan Parkinson, geographer, founder member of The Geography Collective
Michael M. Patte, Ph.D., Distinguished Fulbright Scholar, Associate Professor of Education, Bloomsburg University, PA
Dr Jennifer Patterson, Senior Lecturer in Education, Department of Education and Community Studies, University of Greenwich
Dr Lindsay Peer CBE, psychologist, author and speaker
Professor Michael A. Peters, Faculty of Education, University of Waikato, NZ; Professor Emeritus, University of Illinois
Professor Pat Petrie, Centre for Understanding Social Pedagogy, Institute of Education, London
Professor David Pilgrim, University of Central Lancashire
Linda Pound, early years consultant 
Dr Gillian Proctor, clinical psychologist and author
Adrian Ramsey, Deputy Leader, Green Party 
Patricia Ranken, for Montessori Education (UK) Ltd 
Daniel Raven-Ellison, geographer, founder member of Love Outdoor Play, author of Mission Explore
John Rayment, Principal Lecturer, Decision Making and Problem Solving, Anglia Ruskin University
Vasu Reddy, Professor of Developmental and Cultural Psychology, University of Portsmouth and author of How Infants Know Minds 
Jayne Redmond, Senior University Lecturer; psychotherapist 
Dr Bronwen Rees, Director, Centre for Transformational Management Practice, Anglia Ruskin University 
Professor Colin Richards HMI (ret.)
Dr Kathy Ring, Senior Lecturer in Early Years and Primary Education, York St John University
Karen Robinson, Head of Education and Equalities, National Union of Teachers
Dr Maria Robinson (Ph.D.), Independent Adviser in Early Development 
Veronika and Paul Robinson, Editors, The Mother magazine
Richard Rose, Primary School teacher / Music Writer / Producer (R*E*P*E*A*T Records), Cambridge
Patti Rundall, OBE, Policy Director, Baby Milk Action
Professor Andrew Samuels, University of Essex
Jo Schofield, ‘Going Wild’ – books bringing the natural world to children;  
Dr Daniel G. Scott, Director, School of Child & Youth Care, University of Victoria, BC, Canada
Wendy Scott, early years consultant 
Dorothy Y. Selleck, Early Years Consultant
Therese Shorthouse, Manager VIP Childcare Centre, Elgin
Kim Simpson, psychotherapist, Montessori Head Teacher
Alan Sinclair, economist with The Work Foundation and author of Why Small Children Make a Big Difference 
Pippa Smith, Co Chairman, Safermedia
Professor Richard Smith, Durham University 
Ralf Smits, Acting Headteacher at Borrowdale Primary School, Cumbria 
Dr Robert Snell, psychotherapist, former school counsellor
Hank Stam, Professor of Psychology, University of Calgary 
Elizabeth Steinthal, Head teacher, Educare Small School, London
Dr Tom Strong, Professor and Associate Dean Research, Faculty of Education, University of Calgary
Dr Sebastian Suggate, Department of Education, University of Regensburg
Dr Judith Suissa, Senior Lecturer in Philosophy of Education, Institute of Education
Miranda Suit, Co Chairman, Safermedia 
Brenda Swindells, retired teacher and librarian, concerned grandparent 
Robert Swindells, Writer for children, concerned grandparent
Jill Taplin, Steiner Early Childhood Consultant 
Professor Brian Thorne, University of East Anglia and The College of Teachers
Professor Sami Timimi, Consultant Child and Adolescent Psychiatrist, and Lincoln University 
Dr Val Todd, counsellor and psychotherapist
Ann M. Trousdale, associate professor, Louisiana State University, and ordained deacon, United Methodist Church
Dr Keith Tudor, Associate Professor of Psychotherapy, AUT University, Auckland 
Dr Rona Tutt OBE, SEN consultant, speaker and writer
Diana Voller, Psychotherapist/Snr Lecturer, University of Roehampton
Philip Waddell, Poet
Chris Waterman, Editor, Children’s Services Weekly
Dr Sara Watkin, general practitioner 
Susan Weber, Director of Sophia’s Hearth Family Center, Keene, New Hampshire
Professor Linden West, Canterbury Christ Church University
Dr David Whitebread, Senior Lecturer in Developmental Psychology and Early Education, Faculty of Education, University of Cambridge
Professor John Whitelegg, School of the Built Environment, Liverpool John Moores University
Dr Helen Wright, Headmistress, St Mary’s Calne and  President, Girls’ Schools Association (GSA)
Dominic Wyse, Professor of Early Childhood and Primary Education, Institute of Education, London 
Deirdre Youngs, RPP, CPE, Dip.PBT, Pre- and Perinatal Birth Therapist and Educator
Dr Suzanne Zeedyk, Honorary Senior Lecturer in Developmental Psychology, University of Dundee
New Website and Birth of a New Movement
The details of both initiatives can now be found on the new website We are using this site to bring together those people who are interested in the issues and who would like to be kept informed about a new and more comprehensive movement that we are currently planning for launch in 2012. You can express your interest in the idea and offer your support via the site.
As we feel that OpenEYE still has a part to play in questioning current early-years policy-making when it continues to fall short of a real understanding of childhood, it will continue in its current form. The new movement will, however, tackle the larger, wider and deeper issues including calling on governments and all related organisations to:
  • Protect the rights of the young child as a natural and joyful learner.
  • Recognise the early years as a unique stage in its own right – and not as a preparation for school.
  • Protect young children from all developmentally inappropriate pressures. 
  • Implement rigorous investigation into the effects of screen technology on cognitive and emotional development and protect children from as-yet unforeseen consequences.
  • Ensure that young children have direct and regular access to the natural world. 
  • Challenge all policies that compromise and over-regulate natural risk-taking and creative problem-solving.
  • End all commercial marketing aimed specifically at children under seven years of age. 

You can now sign an online petition to this effect here and we would be really grateful if you could help let other people know about it. For the first time we have also set up a donations button so that people can help us raise the funds to develop the new initiative. Until now OpenEYE has been completely self-funding, with everyone giving their time for free, but we feel that the new initiative deserves a more stable and effective structure to help it grow and we are looking at ways in which this could be achieved. There is a donation button on the front page of the new site and on the left-hand column of this newsletter. 

We hope that the combination of both organisations will provide a highly effective challenge and counter to the influences that so many of us feel are currently eroding natural childhood. 

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