Children need to know where to turn in a crisis

11th January 2008 at 00:00
New children's commissioner for Wales makes rights a priority.

Teachers have a huge part to play in informing vulnerable children of their rights, the incoming children's commissioner for Wales said this week.

Keith Towler claimed many schoolchildren in Wales have no idea where to turn during a personal crisis, despite the well-meaning policies developed by the Assembly government.

In his first interview with The TES Cymru, Mr Towler said: "I'm interested in looking at personal and social education from a rights-based approach and what children can expect from adults. There have been big changes in policies and procedures but some children aren't benefiting - there's a huge agenda for schools."

Elsewhere, he said child poverty, unofficial exclusions from school and cases involving asylum-seeker families would be high on his agenda this year.

Mr Towler, the current programme director of charity Save the Children in Wales, takes over in March from Peter Clarke, Wales's first children's commissioner, who died last year. Mr Clarke was passionate that children were listened to, something Mr Towler also supports. But he is also determined that education should help children out of poverty.

"There's a suggestion economic regeneration isn't happening as quickly here as elsewhere in the UK," he said. "There's a real need to focus on skills and jobs."

In an attack on levels of the "informally excluded" pupils in Wales's schools, he said: "Cases have been reported where people turn a blind eye and children who might be a problem aren't receiving a proper education."

Mr Towler also praised the government's youth-offending strategy which works on the principle "they're children first, criminals second".

And he mourned the decline of youth clubs. "The value of the youth service is incredible," he said.

Protecting the rights of young asylum-seekers will provide a growing challenge this year. "We need to make sure they have a decent education and life experience while here," he said.

Leader, page 28.

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