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Multi-agency - Age discrimination is rife, says rights expert

Banning children from shops is "shocking" and reminiscent of the racism experienced in the United States by "the Irish and negroes", says a leading children's rights academic.

Age discrimination against children is widespread in Scottish society, claimed Kay Tisdall, professor of childhood policy at Edinburgh University.

She cited as examples youngsters being turned away from galleries for no reason and having to prove they had money before being allowed into restaurants.

Professor Tisdall said she had boycotted all the shops in her own neighbourhood which insisted no more than two children enter at one time, but ended up being unable to visit any local stores.

"This used to happen to Irish people and negroes, but we no longer consider that acceptable. Why do we feel it's acceptable for young people?" she asked delegates at a Children in Scotland conference last week, marking 20 years of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child.

"Spend a day out in public, in the streets, going on public transport and I bet you would see at least one example of age discrimination," she told The TESS. "It's pervasive."

She said it was "shocking" that the Equality Bill going through the Westminster Parliament did not recognise age discrimination against young people. More participation by children in decision-making and awareness- raising of the issues were vital to delivery of children's rights: "We need to get out there and ensure at least part of the media does not still treat discourse on children's rights in terms of losing childhood or children running riot."

Also speaking at the conference was Gianfranco Zavalloni, who has spent 20 years working as a teacher and a school director in Italy.

"We live in the era of branded schoolbags and children with mobile phones, of `don't get dirty', `be cautious' and `oh, what did you do?'," said the author of the Children's Natural Rights Manifesto, which identifies 10 "pleasures" to which children should be entitled.

One delegate warned, however, against looking at the past through rose- tinted spectacles, pretending there used to be no poverty, social exclusion or abuse, and that everybody played with wooden toys instead of watching TV.

emma.seith@tes.co.uk.

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