Gaining respect through the teaching of human rights

November 3, 2010

Teaching school children about their rights can reduce exclusions and bullying, raise attainment and improve respect between staff and pupils, according to new research carried out by education researchers at the universities of Sussex and Brighton.

This evidence is highlighted in a three-year qualitative study of UNICEF UK's Rights Respecting School Award (RRSA), published today (2 November).

The project, which is running in more than 1,000 UK schools, teaches to distinguish between their wants, needs and rights. Through working with teachers to develop school charters on classroom behaviour, children learn that with rights come responsibilities.

Judy Sebba, Professor of Education at Sussex, has been working with Dr. Carol Robinson at the University of Brighton on the study.

Judy said: "The aim of the scheme is to give children, young people and those who work with them far more say about their lives. Our evaluation shows that doing this reduces exclusions and bullying and improves respect."

The evaluation assessed the impact of the initiative on the well-being and achievement of children in 31 schools participating in RRSA across English local authorities.

Main findings in the evaluation report include:

• Pupils became more engaged in their learning.
• Little bullying or shouting was reported. Where conflicts do arise, pupils are more likely to resolve these themselves.
• Fixed term exclusions decreased in 13 schools and stabilised in three; five schools reported no exclusions.
• Students developed more positive attitudes to diversity and difference.
• Nearly two-thirds of schools raised their attainment.
• The award scheme could help mitigate the disadvantages associated with child poverty. Three of the four schools with over 50 per cent of children eligible for Free School Meals (FSM) increased their attendance, attainment and reduced fixed-term exclusions. Of the 14 schools that had 20 per cent FSM, eight improved their attainment, seven improved their attendance and six reduced exclusions.
• Pupils actively participated in decisions in their schools.

The evaluation report highlights the Rights Respecting School Award as good value for money and recommends that UNICEF UK and the Department for Education should discuss how best to publicise the Award scheme to schools and local authorities so as to encourage further take up in the UK.

Anita Tiessen, Deputy Executive Director of UNICEF UK, commented: "It is wrong that all children in the UK don't learn about their rights - today's evaluation report shows what a profound effect it can have not only on children, but teachers, leaders, governors and parents.

"We strongly urge the government and local authorities to put it right by promoting the award scheme to more UK schools so they too can reap the benefits and foster responsible adults of the future."

Explore further: UK study: League tables help predict children's success

Related Stories

'Virtual' head teachers benefit children in care

March 4, 2010

( -- New research from the School for Policy Studies shows that 'virtual' head teachers significantly raise the priority of education and outcomes for children in care, who are often less successful at school ...

Teachers admit to bullying students

June 29, 2006

U.S. researchers in Topeka, Kan., say nearly half of elementary school teachers surveyed about bullying in schools admitted to bullying students.

Recommended for you

Ancient barley took high road to China

November 21, 2017

First domesticated 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent of the Middle East, wheat and barley took vastly different routes to China, with barley switching from a winter to both a winter and summer crop during a thousand-year ...

New paper answers causation conundrum

November 17, 2017

In a new paper published in a special issue of the Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society A, SFI Professor Jessica Flack offers a practical answer to one of the most significant, and most confused questions in evolutionary ...


Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.