It is an exciting time for the British Academy as we begin planning for the next phase of our work on childhood policy across the four nations of the UK.

We are looking to build upon the broad range of evidence and insight from Phase I of the programme, taking forward a strong analytical focus, centred around three key themes. Activities and events will seek to bring together policymakers and other stakeholders from across the UK in order to strengthen connections and networks, to maximise opportunities for sharing of best practice, and to enable and encourage UK-wide collaboration.  

The first of our themes is using the framing of ‘being a child versus becoming an adult’ to explore the nature of ‘being a child’ and of contemporary childhood, and the potential benefits of public policy addressing what it means to be a child and enhancing experiences of children in their diversity. We will investigate how children are currently positioned in policy, and the extent to which public policy focuses on achieving better outcomes for children later in life at the expense of improving what it is like to be a child here and now. Questions explored in Phase II will include whether the optimum balance has been struck in policy between ‘being a child’ and ‘becoming an adult’, and whether improvements to children’s outcomes could be made through altering the balance between these two perspectives or framings. 

Our second theme focuses on building the voice of the child into policy. We will be looking to adopt innovative ways of exploring how children’s voices can most effectively be heard and acted upon by policymakers, ensuring that we are engaging directly with children and young people throughout. Work within this theme will identify examples of how children can best become ‘active’ participants rather than merely passive recipients in public policy. Activities will also discuss and attempt to address the structural, methodological and discursive barriers to coherently bringing the child’s perspective into policy debates. 

Our third theme will examine rights-based approaches in relation to policy coherence. An important aim of this phase will be to develop a deeper understanding of how policy might be reframed, and the potential impact of this, were a rights-based approach to become more central to policy formation, delivery, and enactment across all countries of the UK. We are exploring approaches to bringing together stakeholders from across the four UK nations in creative ways to identify the key questions and work towards policy solutions.  We can learn from the examples of Wales and Scotland in particular here.

The Academy’s series of childhood provocation papers, written by experts from across the arts, humanities and social sciences, accompanies the development of the programme in 2020. Upcoming provocation papers will explore important and challenging policy topics linked to the three themes outlined above and will provide opportunities to debate and discuss in the childhood policy space.

We are developing a stimulating programme of events bringing together individuals and organisations working in this area. Upcoming events include two panel discussions relating to our provocations paper series: a discussion on 20 April will explore online and digital technology and its regulation in relation to children’s rights, and an event in June will debate the impact on  children of policies relating to nature, urban planning and use of space.

We are also working on events and activities later in the year aimed at directly involving children and young people, in order to ensure children’s voices are clearly represented within this work.
If you would like to be added to the circulation list for our monthly Childhood newsletter, or if you want to be involved with any aspect of the Childhood Policy Programme, please do get in contact with us at

Professor the Baroness (Ruth) Lister of Burtersett CBE FBA,
Chair, British Academy Childhood Policy Programme