Much to say on human rights

20th January 2012 at 00:00

Your report "Teachers afraid to broach human rights in class" (13 January) is at odds with my own experience of visiting schools and talking to teachers and young people about this vital issue.

In 2011, I undertook a consultation with children and young people called A Right Blether. Its purpose was to raise awareness of children's rights and find out what was important to them. My office produced materials, workshops and other activities about children's rights and the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), culminating in a vote on what my priorities should be over the next four years.

The response was hugely positive: a total of 74,059 children and young people voted, making it the largest consultation ever undertaken in Scotland. Most of the activity in A Right Blether took place in schools and could not have been carried out without teachers' enthusiasm.

Hearing the views of children and young people in school settings made me understand the ease with which rights could be discussed within the classroom and applied across the whole school. Testimony to this are the 600 schools in Scotland signed up to Unicef's Rights Respecting Schools programme.

Of course, there is a long way to go before children's rights are firmly embedded in our education system. Further work still needs to be done to encourage more teachers to discuss human rights, and to promote understanding of the UNCRC. Yet I am consistently impressed and encouraged by my visits to schools and their open, candid approach to issues around children's rights.

On the basis of my ongoing experience with A Right Blether, the assertion that Scottish teachers are afraid to talk about human rights and children's rights seems more of a myth than a reality.

Tam Baillie, Scotland's Commissioner for Children and Young People.

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