The government’s education policy is an ‘assault on childhood’, says children’s author Meg Rosoff

Many pupils in the UK suffer from mental health problems and believe “nothing is more important than exams”, Rosoff warns

Award-winning children’s author Meg Rosoff has attacked the government’s over-focus on exams, claiming that teaching and learning has become “joyless”.

The author, who won the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award in Sweden last night, described the UK’s government’s approach to young people as an “assault on childhood”.

Speaking at the award ceremony in Stockholm, Ms Rosoff told the audience that she has met many children in the UK who believe “that nothing is more important than exams, that they must cram as much information into their brains as possible, that they must be literate and read books – but it is OK to close libraries and do away with librarians”.

“The government says that children must not daydream or waste time or look out of the window. The government says that art and music and books will not help children to be successful – in other words, to make lots of money.”

She added: “I meet these children all the time. Sometimes they get great marks on their exams. And sometimes they cut themselves with razors, starve themselves, suffer depression and anxiety.”

The author’s attack on the government’s approach to education follows widespread opposition from parents, teachers and unions to library closures across the UK and tougher primary assessments.

‘Learning has become joyless’

While accepting the internationally recognised £430,000 award for her literature, Ms Rosoff added: “Teachers are not allowed to waste time either. They have boxes to tick and forms to fill out. Perhaps that is why teachers in the UK are resigning in record numbers from what has become a joyless profession.

“Learning has become joyless as well, but students are not able to quit. Instead, they carry on, trained through childhood not to daydream, not to use their imaginations, not to play.

“In Britain we are experiencing, quite literally, an assault on childhood.”

The UK-based author, known for her young adult novels How I Live Now and Picture Me Gone, added that she was “so honoured” to be the recipient of the Astrid Lindgren Memorial Award (ALMA) for 2016 – the world’s biggest award for children’s and young adult literature.

Ms Rosoff, who beat off competition from hundreds of entrants, added that she kept “waiting for it to sink in, to become normal, but it just keeps leaping up to astonish me”.

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