A Coherent Framework for Human Rights Education
The HRE4ALL alliance campaigns to promote policy alignment around implementing the UNCRC, especially Article 29, in the education system. For a full version of Article 29 see Our platform and aims.
The UK shares many of the problems identified in a review of the implementation of the UNCRC across 12 countries.[i]
Implementation has been piecemeal across different sectors, which fragments the Convention, and this is exacerbated by the range of implementation measures adopted in the four nations of the UK. The UN’s evaluation of HRE around the world makes a similar point, that the decentralization of education policy makes it difficult for government to implement the UNCRC in a coherent way[ii]. Quennersedt[iii] has argued that this is also exacerbated by the constant changes seen in many education systems, and this was reflected in a survey of HRE in 26 countries, where several countries which had introduced HRE into the curriculum had subsequently ‘lost’ it in later rounds of reform.[iv] With these lessons in mind we have identified the following achievable measures which would help to provide a coherent policy framework for realising children’s rights in England.
Change: Amend paragraph 145 of the School Inspection Handbook (January 2018) to include explicit reference to human rights in general and children’s rights in particular.
Rationale: The freedoms given to academies and free schools (now the majority of secondary schools in England) means there is effectively no national curriculum, which could provide an entitlement for all children to learn about human rights. In the absence of such a curriculum the Ofsted handbook provides the clearest mechanism for ensuring that all schools ensure certain aspects of education are satisfactorily taught. At the moment this paragraph directs inspectors to assess the extent to which pupils demonstrate “acceptance and engagement with the fundamental British values of democracy, the rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs; they develop and demonstrate skills and attitudes that will allow them to participate fully in and contribute positively to life in modern Britain.”
2. Department for Education
Change: Amend section 2 of the Standards for Qualifying to Teach (2011) to include explicit reference to children’s rights.
The UNCRC, and specifically Article 29 in full, will be central to all ITE courses. Providers should ensure all ITE trainees have this as part of their training.
Rationale: Part 2 of the Standards sets out the expectations for personal and professional conduct. It alludes to several principles enshrined in the UNCRC but does not make this connection explicit. It is not acceptable to merely mention UNCRC in professional standards without making provision for a full understanding of its principles and implications for teaching methodology.
We recommend an additional introductory point be inserted to read : “Respecting the rights of all learners as outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and their entitlement to be included in decisions regarding their learning experiences and have all aspects of their well-being developed and supported.” This text is taken from the equivalent document regulating the teaching profession in Scotland.[v] AND “Sharing an understanding of and respect for human rights throughout the education setting”,These changes would ensure that all routes into teaching include HRE.
Change: Adopt a legal duty for Ministers to have “due regard to the UNCRC” in all decisions they make.
Rationale: The UK government has adopted this principle in relation to the duty to conduct equality impact assessments (under section 149 of the Equality Act, 2010). The Welsh government has introduced a similar duty with reference to the UNCRC (in their Children’s Rights Scheme, 2014).[vi] This proposal applies principles that are thus tried and tested within the UK to ensure that no other reforms operate to undermine the commitment to children’s rights. The duty could be introduced initially just to the DfE, although other government departments also routinely run projects for schools.
4. Chartered College of Teaching
Change: Amend section 14 of the College’s Professional Principles to include explicit reference to children’s rights.[vii]
Rationale: Section 14 lists the standards of professionalism required of members of the College. This section currently includes references to teachers’ professional responsibility and integrity and their awareness of their impact on children. We recommend this should also include “Respects the rights of all learners as outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and their entitlement to be included in decisions regarding their learning experiences and have all aspects of their well-being developed and supported.” These professional principles are assessed as part of the College’s membership programme and therefore all members would be required to demonstrate how they complied with this standard.
[i] Lundy, L., Kilkelly, U., Byrne, B. and Kang, J. (2012) The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child: A study of legal implementation in 12 countries. London: UNICEF UK.
[ii] UNHCHR (2010) Final evaluation of the implementation of the first phase of the World Programme for Human Rights Education. Report of the United Nations Inter-Agency Coordinating Committee on Human Rights Education in the School System. New York: UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR).
[iii] Quennerstedt, A. (2011) The Construction of Children’s Rights in Education – A Research Synthesis, International Journal of Children’s Rights, 19 (4), 661-678.
[iv] Jerome, L., Emerson, L., Lundy, L. and Orr, K. (2015) Child Rights Education: A Study of Implementation in Countries with a UNICEF National Committee Presence, Geneva: UNICEF PFP.
[v] GTCS (2012) The Standards for Registration: mandatory requirements for Registration with the General
Teaching Council for Scotland. Edinburgh: General Teaching Council Scotland.
[vi] Welsh Government (2014) Children’s Rights Scheme 2014. Arrangements for having due regard to the
United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) when Welsh Ministers exercise any of their functions. WG21452. Cardiff: Welsh Government.