Plenary by Sue Palmer

This plenary talk discusses recent transformations to children's lives and their impact on development.

About the session

Toxic Childhood

What's happening to children? In recent decades, there's been an explosion in developmental conditions, such as ADHD, Asperger Syndrome and dyslexia, and teachers across the UK report that children in general find it increasingly difficult to focus attention and control their behaviour. Twelve years ago, literacy specialist Sue Palmer met a researcher who'd discovered an alarming decrease in young children's listening skills. Her conclusion that 'there's not just one cause – it's lots of things, all coming together' led Sue to wide-ranging research into the rapidly changing nature of children's lives. The resulting book, Toxic Childhood, published in 2006, helped start a national debate about the state of childhood in 21st Century Britain. In this presentation, she discusses how rapid socio-cultural change, driven by a hyper-competitive consumer economy, has transformed children's lives in ways that can affect physical, emotional, social and cognitive development. She also looks at the simple ways adults can work together to 'detoxify' childhood – all of which are free ... 

About the speaker

Sue Palmer is a writer and speaker on the subject of child development and education in the modern world. After 15 years as a nationally respected authority on literacy teaching, in 2006 she published Toxic Childhood which helped spark national debate on the nature of contemporary childhood. Since then she has produced a handbook for parents on Detoxing Childhood and 21st Century Boys (just out in paperback). Sue frequently comments on childhood issues in the national press and media, and for the last two years the Evening Standard has listed her among London's most influential figures in education (which gives her huge pleasure since she lives in Edinburgh). She has been described in The Scotsman as one of the country's 'new radical thinkers'.

Research and insight

Browse fascinating case studies, research papers, publications and books by researchers and ELT experts from around the world.

See our publications, research and insight