Frequently asked questions
What is this Children's Rights work all about?
This initiative focuses on the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child which the UK government has signed up to. It has been stimulated by Dr Katherine Covell and Dr Brain Howe of the Children's Rights Centre based at University College of Cape Breton, Nova Scotia. Through a well-researched and evaluated project the Centre has produced a new resourced curriculum aimed initially at Grade 6 and 8 pupils (Year 6/7 and 9) and also at Grade 12 and undergraduate students.
The pack of teaching material contains a variety of lesson plans with activities aimed at enabling pupils to understand their rights and make the connection between rights and responsibilities. It includes critical thinking skills, positive peer interaction and the teacher modelling the rights being taught. It involves participatory learning, critical thinking skills and promotes higher levels of oracy.
What about Foundation and KS1?
One of our strengths in the County is the experience of many schools using the 'First Steps' approach led by Pam Hand from the Development Education Centre. This demonstrated ways in which a 'rights' based approach could be used with 4-7 year olds. Pam will be part of the training team, along with an Infant school Head.
What is so different?
We know there is some good practice in our schools but we also know that it is not consistent and we are unsure of its overall effectiveness. A distinctive feature of this work is the evidence base. Pupils and teachers knowledge and attitudes were tested pre and post teaching, along with control groups of pupils. There is explicit teaching of the UN Convention for all ages. The universality of the Convention appeals to children and young people, especially in a secular context. Teachers model rights in all their teaching and relationships and there is a verifiable impact on attitudes, behaviour with a culture of respect engendered in classrooms. There is continuous reinforcement of the message in corridors and display areas. Classrooms feature charters of 'Rights and Responsibilities' devised in partnership and applicable to adults and pupils.
Does this approach undermine a teacher's authority?
This did not happen. The approach focus on both rights and responsibilities and in fact the research showed that those not taught about rights and responsibilities were the ones who tended to equate rights with freedoms and wants.
What else did the research show?
- Adolescents showed higher self esteem and also felt valued
- Those that received the rights curriculum perceived their classmates to be more accepting of ethnic minority children and perceived greater levels of peer and teacher support. (Perceived teacher support is related to achievement and expectations and perceived peer support correlates with psychological well being).
- Children were more optimistic about their future
- Children's increased knowledge about their rights improved behaviour and their understanding of the importance of rights for all. (eg in post tests, of those that had received the rights curriculum 47% felt that children had a right to education, compared to only 6% of those who had not experienced rights teaching).
- Teaching children's rights necessitated more democratic, egalitarian styles of teaching.
- When teachers model rights the atmosphere of classrooms is perceived to be more supportive.
- Teachers reported a real impact on classroom behaviour. (more time spent on teaching). Much more positive atmosphere.
- The research suggests a 'contagion' effect, in that learning about ones own rights results in support for the rights of others, including adults and teachers right to teach.
- The more teachers used the rights curriculum the higher they rated it. (This included those who were instructed to use it and not just volunteers.)
- Student support for the rights of adults, ethnic minorities and those with disabilities, were significantly related to their teacher's support for children's rights.
- We now have evidence of similar pupil responses in those Andover schools who have tried out the approach. For example, pupils talking to others of their right to education, pupils with challenging behaviour being 'calmer' and an improvement in standards when, for example, a rights based approach has been taking in the teaching of literacy.
Does it mean more work?
Not necessarily. It is not about resources. These already exist, particularly from Unicef and Save the Children and there is also material from Cape Breton. It is more about teaching style and a framework within which other strategies and leaning takes place. The UCCB material is available via their web site: http://faculty.uccb.ns.ca/~gcarre/children
We will set up a group of teachers from several schools to help develop any additional material.
What is happening in Hampshire?
A series of one day courses.