Memorandum submitted by the National Association
of Head Teachers
1. The National Association of Head Teachers
(NAHT) welcomes the opportunity to submit evidence to the inquiry
into Children's Rights. The Association represents members across
the 0-19 age range and beyond and, as such, is well placed to
comment on this issue.
2. The overwhelming majority of school leaders
and teachers choose careers in education because of a genuine
desire to help children and young people fulfill their potential
and lead successful, productive lives. It is therefore no surprise
that school leaders and teachers are amongst the most vociferous
campaigners for and defenders of the rights of children and young
3. It is a matter of great regret to the
NAHT that inequalities remain in the British education system
and that some children continue to find school a source of disappointment
and frustration instead of a source of support and inspiration.
4. Schools work hard each and every day
to provide a safe environment for and uphold the rights of the
children and young people in their care, but schools do not exist
in isolation. Too often the inequalities and social problems that
exist outside the school walls arrive through the school gates.
5. Schools attempting to tackle issues such
as racism, homophobia, violent and abusive behaviour often find
themselves in the unenviable position of contradicting the deeply
held convictions of whole families and communitiesnot simply
6. When dealing with issues as complex as
bullying and social inclusion, innovative approaches are required;
this is why NAHT has been championing the UNICEF Rights Respecting
School agenda which aims to both inform and empower children
and young people and promote responsible behaviour, cooperation
and active citizenship.
7. Whilst schools are rightly committed
to the promotion of equality for all, it is necessary for organisational
and safeguarding purposes that schools are able to restrict certain
activities on the basis of age.
8. Having highlighted some areas where schools
can and do have a significant impact in upholding the rights of
children and young people, there are other areas where schools
and school leaders are powerless to remedy flaws in the system.
9. Many school leaders are concerned about
shortages of provision and/or support for students with disabilities
and/or special educational needs. Short stay educational provision
is in short supply and many "mainstream" schools are
struggling to provide adequately for those students whose difficulties
present as disruptive or dangerous for other pupils.
10. Poverty and other forms of disadvantage
continue to have a significant impact on engagement with education.
Whilst schools can offer extended services, advice and in some
cases a child's only hot meal, their ability to overcome the impact
of generations of underachievement is limited.
11. The increased emphasis on multi-agency
working and co-operation between children's services is welcomedhowevermany
school leaders have good reason to question the reliability of
these new arrangements due to a lack of resources. Too many children
wait too long for the support they desperately need due to funding
or staffing shortages across the public services.
12. NAHT would be pleased to provide oral
evidence to the Committee and expand upon the topics highlighted