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Commissioner responds to curriculum white paper

Children’s rights should not be optional, an add-on or a nice-to-have; they should be a central feature of Wales’ new curriculum.

Responding to Government’s white paper on the new curriculum, Sally Holland said:

“We know that teaching and embracing children’s rights in education settings can protect children from harm, can have positive effects on exclusion rates, can enable pupils to play an active and central role in their schools and wider communities and can enable children to respect other people’s human rights. They should not be optional, nor an add-on, nor a nice-to-have, but instead should be at the core of education in Wales. Rights need to become reality for every child in Wales.

“Welsh Government is missing a once-in-a-generation opportunity to make children’s rights a reality in Wales.   To make sure all children learn about and experience their rights the legislative framework must include a duty of due regard to the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.  Current proposals for new legislation do not include this duty.   Government has a legal obligation to protect and promote children’s rights. If not, they will remain optional, an add-on, and a nice-to-have for children in Wales.

“The new curriculum offers an exciting opportunity for Wales to state new and relevant commitments to children and young people throughout their education and there is much in Welsh Government’s proposals for a new legislative framework that is highly encouraging.   These proposals could lay the foundations for a curriculum that supports the holistic development of children and is inclusive of their wellbeing.  But to ensure this happens and that the long term needs of children are safeguarded Welsh Government needs to include a commitment to their human rights.

“Children’s human rights cover their fundamental needs.  They include the right to receive an education that helps them achieve their potential and to grow up with everything they need to be healthy and safe.  Children need to learn about their rights so that they are able to take them up and speak up when they are treated unfairly.  Children need to learn about rights so that they respect other people’s human rights, now and in the future.  Children should also be learning in an environment that respects their rights.  This means they feel safe, are included in decision making and do not face discrimination.

“The only way to make this happen in Wales is to put it into the law that will bring in the new curriculum. Without this, there will be real inconsistencies in the ways children learn about and benefit from their rights.

 

“As explained in my position paper this would mean the new curriculum aligns with the duty to give due regard to rights included in the Additional Learning Needs and Education Tribunal (Wales) Act 2018 so that the provisions of the UNCRC are applied to the education of all children.   Including this duty does not have any legal implications for individual teachers.  Instead it is a way of holding relevant bodies to account so that we develop a cultural change in which decision making and policies must balance the rights of children and young people with available resource.

“This is not something that will be difficult to implement. Many schools across Wales excel in their children’s rights work, and they will be able to share their expertise to benefit other schools and their pupils.

“I urge Government to use this opportunity to safeguard the long term needs of children by including a clear commitment to their human rights in new legislation. I will continue to pursue this as these proposals develop and the Curriculum and Assessment Bill passes through scrutiny. “