BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Friday, 12 October 2007, 12:49 GMT 13:49 UK
Childhood across the generations
The biggest study of children of primary school age children in England for four decades suggests they are being forced to grow up too quickly and are put under too much exam stress at school.

Three generations of the same family from the village of Birstall, in Leicestershire, talk about their childhood experiences.

Pupils in class
The report says exam pressure dominates the last years of school

Ellie Lyons likes colouring-in but not maths.

She recently sat an "electricity test" about what sort of batteries should be used and at the moment, the six-year-old doesn't mind exams.

However, her father Andrew thinks constant testing is inappropriate for younger children.

"I don't think they need them at six or seven, but at the end of the day it's a big ugly world out there," he said.

"And unless kids realise they have to work hard to achieve something so they can make a place for themselves in society, you are not doing them any favours."

'Actively marketed'

When asked about the kind of pressures he had been under at primary school, Mr Lyons struggled to come up with an answer. He certainly did not feel the need to compete in terms of clothes and gadgets.

I think it is down to parents to set a good example and tell their kids what the issues are
Andrew Lyons

"It was more innocent, less stressful," said the 41-year-old civil servant.

"I can remember everyone wanted a chopper bike - that was the big thing."

While children down the years have always wanted to fit in, he firmly believes they are now under much more pressure to have and say the right things.

"Everything is faster," he said. "Kids are actively marketed."

But the father-of-two says parents must take responsibility - the Lyons have only one television and no computer games.

"At the end of the day, children don't have power and money," he said.

"Parents have it and they need to be confident enough to say no.

"We are turning into a society which doesn't understand the value of money."


Mr Lyons regrets the fact that Ellie cannot run about like he used to.

He said "stranger danger" was not the primary concern, more the number of cars and unlicensed drivers on the road.

I worry about Ellie though - she doesn't have the freedom I had
Sue Lyons

"I think it is down to parents to set a good example and tell their kids what the issues are," he added.

Ellie's grandmother Sue says her granddaughter gets too much homework.

"They are only babies," said the 63-year-old.

"They are tired when they come home and I think they should be able to run about a bit. I didn't get homework until secondary school."

She called the primary school she had been at an "oasis".

She can remember some pressure in the run up to the 11-plus, but she said it was just about doing well.

"If you passed your 11-plus you got a new bike, if you failed you got a Parker pen set," she recalled.

'Unsettled world'

Born in 1944, Mrs Lyons said she would not want to be growing up today, and if she was getting married now, she would seriously think about whether or not to have children.


Most computers will open these documents automatically, but you may need Adobe Reader

When she was growing up there was not much money about and not much to buy, she said.

She said she certainly did not have to worry about safe play areas, gangs, knives and guns - some of the concerns highlighted by the report.

"When I was six, I can remember my friend and I going out into the fields with our prams, dollies and a picnic," she said.

"My parents never worried," she added.

"I worry about Ellie though, she doesn't have the freedom I had.

"It's such an unsettled world and I think we have lost sight of what's important."

Primary children 'suffer stress'
12 Oct 07 |  Education

Has China's housing bubble burst?
How the world's oldest clove tree defied an empire
Why Royal Ballet principal Sergei Polunin quit


Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific