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Scotland shows Blunkett the way on children's rights

THE effect of devolved legislation on children's rights is highlighted by a campaign for England to implement provisions like those in the Standards in Scotland's Schools Act, which received royal assent last month.

A group representing 160 organisations has written to David Blunkett, Education and Employment Secretary, asking for a meeting to discuss this "crucial matter". The Children's Rights Alliance numbers among its members the National Children's Bureau and the Citizenship Foundation.

Carolyne Willow, joint national co-ordinator for the alliance, says that English children are being deprived of the opportunity given in Scotland to "exercise choice and responsibility over key decisions affecting their education". She wants all children in the UK to have similar basic human rights.

The alliance's letter to Mr Blunkett states that the new Scottish Act is superior to the English Education Act of 1996 which referred only to duties regarding children's role in the curriculum. he Scottish legislation sets out the "much broader" aim of developing children's personality, talents and physical abilities. "This is a positive and essential reminder that children are the principal beneficiaries of education service," Mr Blunkett is told.

The Scottish legislation requires authorities to give due regard to children's views on decisions that affect them, depending on age and maturity. It also requires school development plans to include information about how headteachers will consult pupils and involve them in the running of schools.

Ms Willow says that research commissioned by the Children's Rights Alliance on pupil democracy found that in all four countries studied - Denmark, Germany, Netherlands and Sweden - children were encouraged to be active agents in their own education. The researchers, from the Centre for International Education and Research in Birmingham, noted far fewer problems with discipline and exclusions, even in the most deprived areas.

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