Rochdale Observer: Children’s rights recognised by schools

Sounds like a good idea when first reading the headline. But are Children’s Rights really being observed in a ‘compulsory’, command and control based schooling system. CPE-PEN advocates invitational based, all-age community learning centres and learner centred / directed learning approaches. UNICEF should know all young people should have the rights to self determination with the support of families, friends and mentors – this can’t happen where attendance and curriculum are imposed!

Children’s rights recognised by schools. Katie Fitzpatrick . September 16, 2009.

A SCHEME that places children’s rights at the heart of the school curriculum is being rolled out across Rochdale.

The Rights Respecting School Award is an initiative being pioneered by the charity UNICEF UK which encourages schools to base their vision and values on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

It is hoped that the scheme will cut termtime absences and exclusions and reduce bullying by teaching children about their responsibilities and encourage them to become more respectful to each other and to adults.

From the age of four children are taught the difference between wants and needs, and how ‘needs lead to rights.’

The council has signed up for a three-year programme with UNICEF, which campaigns for children’s rights and the Department for Children Schools and Families to take this programme to as many schools who want to become a Rights Respecting School.

They will have training once a term and support given for further training, information, lesson and resources from the council. Parents at participating schools are given a copy of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Catherine Aden, headteacher at St James’ CE Primary School in Wardle, said that termtime absences have halved because of the programme.

She said: “By putting children at the heart of the decision making process in schools we’ve made them feel like it’s their school. We’ve halved term time absences due to family holidays over the last year. The children really want to come to school.”

Rochdale is one of five local authorities in England to pilot the scheme, which is expected to be extended to children’s centres and health visitors, parent empowerment workers and other services, along with Durham, Bracknell, Hampshire and Dorset.

Terry Piggott, executive director for children’s services at Rochdale Council, said: “We are committed to developing our students academically and personally and felt involvement with the Rights Respecting Schools Award would enhance their achievement and development.”

He added: “There have been many positive effects in the primary and secondary schools across the UK who have signed up to the RRSA, so we were keen to roll it out to our schools across the borough. We are pleased to be one of the only authorities in the north of England who has signed up to the scheme and hope other authorities will see the good effects it has upon our schools.”

Rochdale MP Paul Rowen said: “I think that this is an excellent scheme. I met some children from Wardle St James’ Primary School and they were excellent ambassadors for the school and for Wardle. The scheme gives young children the confidence and the ability to take on and challenge what adults are doing.”

He added: “Childhood is not an easy process these days so anything that equips children to take control of their own future can only be good.”

Rochdale’s Labour Parliamentary Candidate, Simon Danczuk said: “It’s already been recognised by Ofsted as making a real difference and the teachers on the frontline say that they’ve seen a change in the children’s attitude and behaviour.”

He added: “It’s great to see Rochdale piloting this exciting government initiative. This kind of approach will prepare children much more effectively for life beyond school.”

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