Last week, the Scottish Government announced funding for the UK Committee for UNICEF (UNICEF UK) to offer their Rights Respecting Schools Award (RRSA) programme to all state primary and secondary schools in Scotland so children in Scotland know about their rights.
UNICEF UK works with schools across the country to embed children’s rights in a schools’ ethos, raise awareness of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and to increase understanding of children’s rights.
Lucinda Rivers, Head of UNICEF UK in Scotland, said:
“We have seen already the incredible impact that the RRSA school programme can have for whole school communities and thanks to the support of the Scottish Government even more children in Scotland will benefit by learning about their rights in environments where their voices are valued. This is an important part of the journey to incorporate the UNCRC into Scots law, to ensure that every child has their rights realised, and we are very grateful to the Scottish Government for their support.”
Impact of rights-based education
Evidence gathered by UNICEF UK shows the positive impact of the programme on creating a culture of respect across the school community where children’s voices are heard and valued, children feel safe and cared for and develop their self-esteem. 90% of headteachers in Rights Respecting Schools reported noticeable or significant impact on pupils developing positive relationships and 89% reported noticeable or significant impact on reducing bullying or exclusions.
Currently, 57% of Scottish schools are engaged with the programme and 563 have achieved the Silver or Gold stage of the Award where the impact of the RRSA is visibly recognised.
The grant from the Scottish Government will allow schools to register for the Award and access all training, accreditations and support for free until March 2025, removing barriers and giving any school interested in becoming Rights Respecting the opportunity to do so. This will create a lasting impact for children in Scotland.
New funding from @scotgov will enable us to offer our Rights Respecting Schools programme to all state primary and secondary schools in Scotland, so all children in Scotland know their rights! Thanks for launching the partnership at one of our schools today @S_A_Somerville.#RRSA pic.twitter.com/q4Z0We7foL
— UNICEF UK Campaigns (@UNICEFuk_action) May 20, 2022
Gillian Mann, Headteacher at Commercial Primary School that welcomed the Education Secretary stated:
“We were delighted to be part of the announcement from the Scottish Government and UNICEF UK. As a Rights Respecting Gold School, Commercial Primary School have always put the rights of the child at the heart of all we do. This has allowed our pupils to have a strong voice, to know their rights and to affect change and make our school the best it can be as well as allowing pupils to advocate for others.
“We are delighted that every child in Scotland will now have the chance to learn about their rights and to develop a lifelong interest in equity and equality.”
While this funding will focus on embedding children’s rights in primary and secondary schools, the Scottish Government supports UNICEF UK research into understanding how early learning and childcare settings integrate children’s rights.
Caption: In 2018, EachOther teamed up with the Equality and Human Rights Commission to find out what kids think about human rights.
Launching the partnership
To launch the new partnership, the Cabinet Secretary for Education and Skills, Shirley-Anne Somerville, visited Commercial Primary School in Dunfermline which is already involved with the UNICEF UK Rights Respecting Schools Award programme. The Cabinet Secretary spoke to pupils and the headteacher about children’s rights and the impact of the RRSA programme on their school and their lives.
Education Secretary Shirley-Anne Somerville said:
“We believe passionately that children’s rights should be recognised, protected and fulfilled.
“An important part of that is helping children and young people to understand those rights and to be empowered to exercise them.
“The Rights Respecting Schools programme supports pupils to feel valued, heard and safe and I am pleased that the Scottish Government, in partnership with UNICEF UK, are now able to offer the programme to all state primary and secondary schools.”
Using the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child as a guide, Rights Respecting Schools Award works with more UK schools than almost any other organisation. 1.6 million children in the UK go to a Rights Respecting School and nearly 5,000 schools up and down the country are working towards the Award. In Scotland, more than 450,000 children go to a Rights Respecting School and nearly 1,500 schools are working towards the Award. For more information, visit unicef.org.uk/rights-respecting-schools/.
The views expressed belong to the author and do not necessarily represent the views of EachOther.