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A Children’s Rights Approach to Education in Wales

DOWNLOAD THE RIGHT WAY: A CHILDREN’S HUMAN RIGHTS APPROACH TO EDUCATION IN WALES

A children’s human rights approach is a principled and practical framework for education settings to enable human rights education under the duties of the Curriculum and Assessment (Wales) Act 2021.

This framework will support the leaders of education settings to develop a children’s human rights approach in their setting.  All education settings in Wales can adopt this approach, including: schools; early years settings; Further Education; EOTAS settings; informal education and youth work settings and home education settings. Education departments of local authorities can also use this framework to support children’s rights approaches across their provision.  Higher Education Institutes can use this framework to support Initial Teacher Education.

We have developed a curriculum mapping guide to help support you link rights to the new curriculum:

Curriculum Mapping

We have also developed a self-assessment document to help you map and reflect your progress in embedding a children’s human rights approach:

Self Assessment Tool

We have free bi-lingual schemes that can support children to learn about their rights:

Our Free Children’s Rights Schemes

Resources linked to The Right Way principles:

The Right Way Resources

As you can see from the tabs below we welcome any new case studies to our website to share good practice. If you have a case study you’d like to share with us then please send them to post@childcomwales.org.uk

If you have any questions about the guide, or if you’d like to receive it in a different format, please get in touch.

The principles of a Children’s Rights Approach are:

1. Embedding children’s rights

2. Equality and Non-discrimination 

3. Empowering children

4. Participation

5. Accountability

The guide focuses on each principle individually and gives practical advice on how it can be put into practice.

Bishopston Comprehensive School: Embedding the Right Way approach

Bishopston Comprehensive School is an English Medium 11-16 School in Swansea and the school is proud to be a UNICEF Gold Rights Respecting School. The school have also embedded children’s rights using Swansea Council’s “Doing it the Rights Way: A plan to help Swansea Council put Children’s Rights at the heart of its decisions.” This is based on the Children’s Commissioner’s Right Way approach. Pupils at the school are aware of their rights and the senior leadership of the school described this understanding as essential to achieving the school vision to be an ‘outstanding learning community founded on mutual respect.’

Each of the interlinked five principles of the Right Way has been taken forward at the school, as outlined below.

Embedding: The UNCRC is included in the school development plan and pupils have selected articles which are linked to school policies. Rights are evident in staff presentations for internal interviews, in Skills Week booklets, and in health and wellbeing day presentations. Direct links are made to the UNCRC across curriculum subjects.

Non-Discrimination: Bishopston Comprehensive has a whole school approach to inclusion. Pupil voice has initiated a Wheelchair Basketball Club, which led to the addition of Boccia, Wheelchair basketball and Hard Court Orienteering in the Year 9 Sports Festival. Pupil voice has prompted the development of a valuable school-to-school relationship with a special school for 3-19 year olds who have profound and multiple learning difficulties.

Empowerment: Building on Primary School experiences, staff empower pupils to understand their rights through Challenge Days and Health and Well-being days. The school leads the local authority Professional Learning Community (PLC) for pupil voice: a staff and pupil forum which creates opportunities to explore and discuss rights. With other secondary schools, pupils are developing a united Swansea Pupil Voice manifesto based upon ‘What matters’ to young people.  Pupils contribute to the school development plan by identifying and leading whole school improvements. Pupils also monitor progress using the National Evaluation and Improvement Resource prompts.

Participation: Pupil voice mechanisms include prefects, the school council, year councils, form representatives and whole school ‘pupil led’ pupil voice surveys. Pupils are encouraged to consider and share their ideas for developing the curriculum and have led on the development of resources for Black lives Matter, Public Sexual Harassment, Sexual and Gender identity and Empathy Week.

Accountability – The Senior Prefect Team meet weekly with the Head teacher and Associate Pupil Governors attend and present at governing body meetings.  The School Council system provides a two-way communication channel for potential ideas and feedback to their peers. This two way communication is essential in communicating the power of pupil voice and the impact it is having in supporting improvement.

NPTC Group of Colleges: children’s rights training to develop skills and understanding 

NPTC Group of Colleges is a post-16 further education setting offering education mainly across Neath Port Talbot and Powys.   Student representatives and student union officers are enabled and empowered to have their voices heard through participating in children’s rights based training as part of their induction programme.

Training is delivered annually by Neath Port Talbot Children’s Rights Unit and the College Student Involvement and Diversity Officer. It includes:

  • Rights of children and young people
  • Principles of good governance with an overview of college governance and reporting structures
  • Skills needed to be effective student leaders

Student representatives and union officers are part of a wider student participation framework, operated across the College. These include decision making groups, for example the College Health and Wellbeing Strategy Group and the College Diversity Management Group. It also includes extensive consultations across the student body through surveys and focus groups.

One of the key factors that has contributed to the loud, strong and informed student voice is the whole college approach to participation and Article 12 of the UNCRC, championed by the Senior Management team and Corporation Board.

Next steps will include delivering Introduction to Children’s Rights training for professionals with the initial focus on teaching and support staff.

St Paul’s Church in Wales School: Children’s Voices Challenging Racism

St. Paul’s Church in Wales Primary school is in Grangetown, Cardiff. An inquiry-based approach to learning is used in the school to enable children to shape their own learning through asking questions and investigating ideas they are most interested in. Over a term in 2021, Year Six focussed on the inquiry question, ‘What does it mean to belong?’

Children chose areas of focus across this broad inquiry, which included:

  • finding out about the history of the British Empire;
  • exploring the experience of refugees and asylum seekers through books and news;
  • exploring what makes them feel like they belong;
  • celebrating Black History Month by focussing on local hero Betty Campbell;
  • exploring their own vision for the Commonwealth;
  • writing a letter to the Queen, and receiving her reply.

As part of their inquiry children made their own video explaining how they challenge racism when they see or hear it. Through this video children explored the principle of equality and non-discrimination. Children learnt that all humans have equal access to human rights and that everyone has the right to equality. Vital to this inquiry was that children explored their own role as active citizens, with the right to express their opinions and be listened to.

At the end of the inquiry the children participated in a performance of understanding, where they presented their own ideas about a new vision for the Commonwealth. Their ideas included education for all, meeting global environmental targets and embracing all religious beliefs. The concept of their own right to a voice was an essential part of developing their understanding of democracy. The children were taken seriously by adults in positions of influence: the Queen wrote back to their letter, and they discussed their views with the Children’s Commissioner for Wales. They experienced that their voices were listened to, and that they matter.

Ysgol Plasmawr: Balch (Proud)

Balch is the school’s pupil-led anti-racism group. They meet once a week to hold structured discussions about equality and discuss any incidents/cases of racism at the school. They also discuss and deal with any concerns raised by pupils.

The group has a role in educating the school’s staff as well as its pupils. Staff can approach the group for their opinion and to check if something is suitable. There are also plans for Balch to train staff by running a workshop during an INSET session. They intend to highlight important issues and tackle ‘unconscious bias’.

The group felt that lack of education is often the reason for cases of racism in the school. They try to engage with years 7-9 specifically to find out what their concerns are and what the group can do to improve pupils’ experiences within the school. They also hope to use assemblies and registration periods to do more to raise awareness, e.g. by promoting an appreciation of different cultures.

The group has realised that since they began their interventions, racist ‘jokes’ and language have been occurring less frequently in the younger years. Covid and the lockdowns caused problems in terms of reaching pupils, so an increase in behaviour was seen as pupils returned to school in Summer 2020 but this has reduced again as Balch continue with their work.

There are also different equality groups at the school, e.g. Digon (Enough) (an LGBHT+ rights group). This eases the pressure on specific pupils in the school having to deal with all cases of inequality and instead provides an opportunity for pupils to tackle inequalities for different groups on several fronts.

Amberleigh Residential Therapeutic School: creating safe spaces to explore different views and experiences

Amberleigh Residential Therapeutic School is an independent special school in Powys, and is part of an accredited therapeutic community.  This accreditation is based on a set of 10 Core Values against an evidence based set of standards held by the Royal College of Psychiatrists.

A fundamental aim of the school is that all young people have a right to an equal voice and can participate in decisions within the community.  Empowerment is rooted in relationships that facilitate participation based on having a voice, respect and interdependence. Therapeutic communities are designed to facilitate these sorts of relationships.

At the heart of the this culture are twice-daily meetings immediately before and after school, as well as twice-weekly extended meetings. The purpose of these meetings is to enable young people understand, talk about and express their thoughts and experiences in an open, honest and safe way.

In these meetings a space is also created for young people to voice concerns and raise issues in the presence of their peers as well as staff on matters that affect them. Using the therapeutic community approach means that education, care and therapy are integrated and daily meetings give an opportunity for young people to ask questions from all of parts of the community, it also enables young people to raise complaints and be involved in making changes. Meetings are also an opportunity for young people to appropriately challenge others, and to be supported to discuss any issues that have arisen with other community members.

Within the school these are further supported by weekly school community assemblies, and whole group, small group and individual discussions, which often include a focus on human rights and equality.

The Head teacher describes young people in the school as, ‘empowered and enabled to question one another in a positive and non-judgmental manner… Young people begin to instinctively learn to use these skills to make themselves heard and be able to contribute to discussion and debate in a healthy way. A direct result is that they develop the skills to accept difference and the expression of views or opinions.’

Case study: learning and experiencing rights through home education

Madeleine Hobbs was a member of the Children’s Commissioner’s Advisory Panel of Young People between 2018-2021. Madeleine has been home educated and has been empowered to understand and access her rights through experiential learning.

As a young child, Madeleine developed an early understanding of her participatory rights through experiences and play. Madeleine would accompany family members when they cast votes, and at home Madeleine made a ballot box and voting card to hold a family election. Her interest in this led to her initiating explorations in politics, citizenship and human rights. These explorations have included research into the suffragettes, visiting the Houses of Parliament and taking action on matters that are important to her, including campaigning against proposed legislation around home education.  This has enabled Madeleine to directly experience her right to freedom of association by taking part in peaceful assembly with her community.

Madeleine voted for the first time in the 2021 Senedd elections. She describes the experience as, ‘incredibly exciting. It felt like I was doing something very real, and something I had looked forward to for a long time.’

Madeleine’s research into politics and history also motivated her to become a member of the Commissioner’s Advisory Panel, ‘I was inspired by the suffragettes and the effort, time and risk they put in to fight for the rights of women. I wanted to make a difference to people’s lives and to the rights of children. My experiences in education meant I already felt confident to express my views but the panel gave me a new context for this. Of course we didn’t all agree on the things, and that was important. We had really valuable discussions sharing our different experiences and viewpoints, and opportunities to share these in political environments. It was an opportunity where I could raise my voice and expect the same respect as an adult.’

Alun School

Alun School is a secondary school in Mold, Flintshire who have been involved with SHRN (the School Health Research Network) since 2015.

The school council review the SHRN generated report and scrutinise each question, identifying key headlines and areas to focus on. Alun School’s Year 7-11 tutor groups and Sixth Form council will also look at sub areas of the report, look at the highlights and focus on a few of the report results. This enables all pupils to work collectively and have an opportunity to share their thoughts on the findings on health and wellbeing in Alun School and suggest possible actions to further improve the approach.

Pupil voice is essential throughout the SHRN cycle. All pupils are encouraged to share their thoughts and then hold discussions pupil to pupil, pupil to staff, staff to staff and pupil to community adults about the data in the reports.

The school council lead the analysis of the SHRN report, where they discuss possible reasons for the findings and discover areas to celebrate or focus on. The school council also lead on producing the school’s SHRN action plan, which school staff and adults in the community also contribute to. The action plan feeds into the School Development Plan.

It is a whole school approach, which uses the principles of the Right Way. All staff, pupils and parents/carers are aware of SHRN and the roles it plays in Articles 12 and 24. Taking the Right Way approach has encouraged pupils to participate and have their say on health and wellbeing and PSE in school.

Sharing the SHRN report once it has been generated is essential to the SHRN cycle in Alun School. It provides further opportunities for discussions with young people and opportunities for young people to share their views and perspectives on the data obtained. All staff are involved in the SHRN analysis process, including within their pastoral roles as group tutors to support discussions by young people on the SHRN report findings.

The last school report was released in 2020, during lockdown. The school council adapted their approach by meeting online and reviewing the report using shared documents to comment on and to suggest actions going forward.

Taking this approach means that young people are interested in health and wellbeing in their setting, on a local level and nationally, looking for any patterns or differences in celebratory areas and areas they’re focusing on. Young people are aware of the help available for them and are aware of their rights.

Pupil voice has impacted on their curriculum and whole school approach to topics and themes in the school community. It has helped to engage conversations about rights across the community and raise awareness on health and wellbeing. The curriculum is tailored according to the SHRN report and pupil voice consultations. Topics that in previous years may have been sensitive to talk about are now more easily spoken about between pupils, staff and the community. More pupils are giving feedback and contributing to questionnaires the school creates on a regular basis.

Ysgol Hafod Lon

Ysgol Hafod Lon is a school for pupils aged 3-19 with a wide range of additional needs.

Here, pupils led the creation of a video which shows the places in school which they feel keep them happy, healthy and safe and some of the key rights which are important to them:

Caerleon Lodge Hill Primary

Caerleon Lodge Hill Primary School are based in Caerleon, Newport. They presented their work on revamping their anti-bullying strategy to the Anti-Bullying Alliance Wales Steering Group in 2022.

They began by incorporating their work on anti-bullying into the School Development Plan and implementing changes to protocols and daily practice. The main noticeable change in the school’s practice was the vocabulary used when referring to anti-bullying, for example ‘target’ and ‘perpetrator’ have replaced ‘victim’ and ‘bully’. Their focus gathered momentum, after an introduction to the anti-bullying charity Kidscape, where the school accessed training and resources.

Caerleon Lodge Hill rewrote their anti-bullying policy, renaming it the Rights, Respect, Equality Policy. In it, they put an emphasis on preventing incidents of bullying, by understanding the reasoning behind certain behaviours and embraced the need to give support to all parties involved in incidents. Kidscape’s ten-point action was used to facilitate the rewriting of the policy and the policy had input from school staff and the Pupil Leadership Team. Their action plan on the policy is reviewed and updated termly.

Rights, Respect, Equality staff lead and a governor lead roles were appointed in order to co-ordinate, spearhead and drive forward the vision that was emerging and all governors have been invited to attending RRE training before the end of the 2021-22 academic year.

The Pupil Leadership Team meet weekly with the head teacher and RRE staff lead to share ideas and make suggestions on addressing concerns raised by other pupils. The team also devise questions to use in a biannual RRE survey for all school pupils, the results of which are used to plan and focus for the term ahead.

Following incidents of bullying, the school adopt varied strategies to help rebuild confidence, self-esteem and relationships, for example:

  • Restorative justice sessions are held between the pupils involved in an incident
  • ELSA sessions are arranged for the pupils involved to allow them time to talk to someone about their feelings
  • SEAL sessions are utilised to help build friendships and social skills.

Peer Mentoring

The school’s teaching staff are also in the process of establishing a Peer Mentoring Programme following training from Kidscape.

Year 4 and 5 pupils will buddy up with younger pupils who need support with social skills and building friendships and model expected behaviour.

A steering group of staff members will drive forward the programme and an action plan has also been created to assess, review and improve as they move through the process.

Kidscape www.kidscape.org.uk
Anti-bullying Alliance www.anti-bullyingalliance.org.uk