'Teach children about their human rights in schools'

Silhouetted children form the word "Think"
Image caption Hafod school holds assemblies themed around the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child

When a Swansea primary school began to teach pupils about their human rights, several children told teachers they did not feel safe at home.

Rachael Webb, headmistress of Hafod Primary school, said it led to the involvement of the authorities.

"It does make children think about how they should be treated," she said.

The Wales' Children's Commissioner Prof Sally Holland has called for a legal obligation on schools to educate children about their rights.

The Welsh Government said the new curriculum, which will be rolled out in 2022, would ensure children understand the issues.

Prof Holland warned some schools are not doing enough to support children's rights.

The UN Convention of the Rights of the Child includes a right to have a say in decision-making, a right to be safe from abuse and neglect, and a right to an education.

Ms Webb introduced the UN convention into Hafod primary school's ethos 12 years ago.

Image caption Headmistress Rachael Webb says children's rights are now well understood in the local community

"Some years ago we had children who were learning about their rights come to us and say they didn't feel safe, not only in the home but in the community as well. [There were] massive implications for the children, to know they were listened to, and there was action."

She added that children's rights are now "very well understood" in the local community.

"Thankfully we've not had anything [like that] for six to seven years."

The school puts an emphasis on listening to children - with "worry boxes" dotted around the school where children can post their concerns - but they also teach pupils about their responsibilities to other children.

Image caption 11-year-old Aslam says learning about children's rights has made him feel lucky in his own life

"You have to make it easy for them to understand. So for example the children's right to have an education… means all children should behave in class. They shouldn't disturb other children - [otherwise] they are taking away their rights to have an education and to listen to the teacher."

Each class has a "charter" based on the convention, and Ms Webb said their approach also helped make children aware of how others are living around the world.


Professor Holland said many schools already do a "fantastic job" of making sure children know about their rights.

"But that is not consistent right across Wales," she said.

She said she wanted children's rights to be put on a legal footing as part of the new curriculum.

"[Otherwise] we can't ensure that every child in Wales gets the chance to learn about their rights and to experience their rights."

Image caption Prof Sally Holland said children's rights should be a fundamental part of pupils' school experience

"Sometimes schools have policies that aren't great really in terms of supporting children's rights. They may be super-strict policies for example that don't pay attention to children's home circumstances and why it's hard for them to come in a clean tidy uniform every day for example."

"This isn't just another topic to be ticked off for children to learn… it's much more about their fundamental experience throughout their time in school."

A Welsh Government spokesman said the commissioner was welcome to take part in the consultation.

"The new curriculum will ensure that learners have opportunities to understand and exercise their human and democratic rights - helping them to become ethical, informed citizens," he added.

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