Topic 1 School policy: A rights based perspective

School policy is the set of established expectations, a set of rules and principles, adopted for ease of governance within a school. School policy should be clear, accessible, transparent and understandable to parents, staff, and students. Furthermore school policy needs to be up to date, keeping up with best practices (Efreom-Lieber & Lieber, 2010; Magor-Blatch, 2011). An absence of policy leads to inconsistency of decision making; in the absence of  formal policies, organisations, staff, students and parents would have no guidance on how to make the proper and consistent decisions.

As important as it may be, school policy does not stand on its own. It is an auxiliary tool that is used to ensure that the overall purpose of the school is fulfilled.  This purpose has always been, in essence, the same: to give to the young the things they need in order to develop in an orderly, sequential way into members of society (Dewey, 1934). Thus, the purpose of school is to provide opportunities for kids to flourish. Accordingly, school policy must therefore address the needs of the child.

Addressing the needs of the child is not however something limited to ethics and is definitely not charity. It is a legal obligation deriving from international conventions, especially the 1989 UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). School policy should be developed vis a vis the articles of UNHCR and should examine whether all processes and procedures adhere,   to  the relevant articles.

Non-discrimination (Article 2)

Best Interests of the Child (Article 3):

The Right to Life, Survival and Development (Article 6):

  • Have all children access to education without discrimination?
  • Is good quality education available to all children in all areas of the country?
  • Is education designed to meet the needs of each child, irrespective of his or her background or language?
  • Does the school promote tolerance and understanding of children who are different?
  • Does it give the children tools to oppose xenophobia and other negative attitudes in society?
  • Are educational materials, school buildings and other facilities- such as health care, school meals and transport - adequate?
  • Are the school curricula developed “in the best interests of the child”?
  • Is meaningful vocational guidance given?
  • Does the school give real life skills, including an understanding of both global and local phenomena?
  • Does it develop respect for the environment?
  • Are teaching methods child-friendly?
  • What possibilities are established for early childhood development?
  • Does the pre-school institution and the school facilitate the development of the child in all respects - from the right to nutrition to the right to play?
  • Is discipline established with child-friendly means?
  • Does the school encourage the development of the children’s personalities, talents and abilities “to their fullest potential”?

Particular emphasis is placed on The Views of the Child (Article 12): The child should be free to have opinions in all matters affecting him or her and the views should be given due weight “in accordance with the age and maturity of the child”.

The underlying idea is that the child has the right to be heard and have his or her ideas taken seriously.

The Views of the Child (Article 12)

  • Are children listened to?
  • Can they influence the structure of the lessons, the education plan or the running of the school?
  • Can they complain against a decision in school?
  • Does the school, indeed, encourage democratic and critical thinking?
  • Does it give a deeper understanding of the essence of human rights?

Changing Policies in Schools

How we can  change school policies that benefit students, promote health and safety, and improve the school system?

See the video below and visit the Community Tool Box by the University of Kansas Center for Community Health and Development to  learn how.