Children's Rights - Human Rights Joint Committee Contents


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 people.

  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 communities—not simply individual children.

  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 welcomed—however—many 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 above.

February 2009





 
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