Firstly welcome back and best wishes for 2018.  I want to start with a curious thing about 2018 as a year – it marks a point when all adults in the world were born last century and all children were born this century.  2018 is also identified as being the year of the young person.

It therefore was perhaps no coincidence that I chose to start the year with assemblies which looked at the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.  It is not the first time I have spoken about UNCRC and it certainly will not be the last.  The articles of the UNCRC sit behind most of the legislation relating to children from the Scottish Government.  UNCRC is ratified by every country in the United Nations with the exception of USA.  It is also supported by all of the leading faith groups in the world and is not aligned to any political doctrine.

In my assembly (January 2018 assembly) I emphasised that the 42 articles of the convention could be grouped under 4 main headings: survival, protection, development and participation.  By raising awareness of their rights we help children to survive, we help ensure their protection, we support their development and we actively encourage their participation.  I hope to prepare an information sheet for all pupils, parents and staff to ensure we are all recognise and realise rights of all the youngsters who attend Harlaw Academy.

The assembly went on to look at how these rights translate into day to day life.  The role adults play as ‘duty bearers’ – there to help youngsters to benefit from their rights but also to offer guidance/support and act in the best interests of the child/young person.  The role of children as ‘rights holders’ and our expectation that they will see their rights as being valuable and worth looking after.

A point I emphasised was that in our school it was often other children who denied them their rights.  Examples included:

  • disrupt education by turning up late and/or misbehaving in class (article 28 – education)
  • damages toilets/property, drops litter in corridors ( article 24 – clean/safe environment)
  • bullies someone by hitting them, calling them names or making comments on line (article 19 – protection from harm)
  • exploits them by asking them to do something uncomfortable eg sexting (article 16 – privacy/dignity)
  • uses peer pressure to stop them from doing something they might enjoy (article 36 – exploitation)

I asked pupils to be willing to speak up for their rights and to tell if they see things which happen to other children which denies them the survival, protection, development or participation which their rights should give them.  As we see in other aspects of life it can sometimes be difficult for the ‘victims’ to speak up and we need others to call out the unacceptable behaviour.

In school UNCRC sits behind/above our three behaviour statements:

  • Respect People: we will consider the health, safety and well being of ourselves and others
  • Respect Learning: we will be on time, on task, trying our best and achieving success
  • Respect Community: we will have a positive impact in school, locally and in the wider world

These statements informed a leaflet on expectations which is available here for your reference Expectations flier January 2018

Harlaw Academy was the first, and at the time the only, Secondary school in Aberdeen to gain level 1 (Silver) of the UNICEF UK Rights Respecting Schools Award and we are looking to gain level 2 (Gold) of the award later this year.  Harlaw Academy is a school which emphasises respect and this is emphasised in our behaviours and expectations.  It is a school in which we want all teachers, families and young people to act to ensure the rights of all young people are recognised and realised.