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Human Rights in Education at Bluestone School (Timaru)

A year after joining the Human Rights in Education initiative, the principal of Bluestone School (Timaru) observed that there had an improvement in classroom and school atmosphere, higher personal expectations regarding behaviour and a reduction in bullying and the need for school rules.

Ian Poulter tells the story:

Bluestone School is a full Primary with a roll of around 500 students. Human Rights in Education (HRiE) is a special feature of the school culture, having been introduced a year ago. It seems timely to reflect on what has happened and how this has impacted on the life of the school.

In 2009 several Board of Trustee members heard a presentation at the NZSTA Conference by Ced Simpson, the director of the trust that promotes, supports and coordinates the national Human Rights in Education initiative.. The message they heard fitted in with the culture development at Bluestone School. Ced was invited to the school to meet with the full Board and Senior Management. The day of information and discussion convinced all present that HRiE would strongly complement the school direction and enhance student achievement.

Early in 2010 Ced ran a two day inservice course for all staff (teaching and support staff). Staff learned about the important history of human rights and the role that NZ had played. Staff were fascinated by the history and the responsibility that we all have. Staff quickly appreciated that HRiE could make a significant impact on school culture and that it had real purpose and wasn’t just the “human rights” picture that was assumed. Staff and Board felt strongly that all children have rights and that each right brought responsibilities that, when reflected in our school culture, would  make Bluestone a place where students felt greater responsibility for citizenship and for creating and maintaining a safe and happy learning environment.

Ced also addressed a meeting of parents to outline the place of Human Rights in Education.

As a school we then discussed how HRiE would be the lens through which we viewed many things. We had already been looking into Restorative Practices and had made major efforts to address any bullying issues that existed in the school. We had reviewed our school values and the key competencies were high on our agenda.  HRiE seemed to bring everything together and give us an underlying foundation, it was not seen as a stand-alone programme. A group of staff  agreed to gather resources and ideas that would provide us with a solid base. The Principal visited two other schools where HRiE was established to gain further insight.

Classes looked at human rights. They discussed “wants” and “needs” and then created class charters based on rights and responsibilities. Things quickly snow-balled. Classes became hooked by the thinking behind HRiE. In particular Year 7 & 8 classes found human rights history powerful learning. There are a great number of video clips and books that give powerful messages and student of this age have a strong sense of fairness and justice.  The language being used around the school reflected our new HRIE thinking. Student-created posters started to appear in classes and in spaces around the school with HRiE themes and messages. Junior classes displayed “wants” and “needs” in pictures and words and linked in so well with our school values. Students and staff alike embraced HRiE and the culture of the school further developed in a very positive way.

Now a year after introduction it is worthy to note:
•    Human rights is firmly established as an integral and underlying part of our school culture.
•    Along with a restorative practices approach to behaviour management and a strong set of values, HRiE has resulted in a school that has seen a significant drop in bullying, a greatly improved school tone, and a very positive classroom atmosphere across all classes. Children are positive and staff are positive.
•    All classes have established class charters based on rights and responsibilities. This has resulted in higher personal expectations and therefore the need for far fewer rules. Children are walking the talk.
•    Children can be overheard making statements about responsibilities and then can be seen acting upon them. Staff are acknowledging positive actions and attitudes. This is having a positive impact which grows.
•    Older students are showing a strong interest in the rights of children in other places (like child labour picking coffee beans)
•    HRiE is reflected throughout the school in many different ways from topics of interest, to attitudes and language, to relationships.

At Bluestone we are convinced of the value of human rights-based education and the HRiE initiative.
Any school contemplating introducing a human rights and responsibilities lens should seriously consider introduction sessions with Ced Simpson as if HRiE is to be successfully introduced the WHY needs to be understood before the HOW is considered.

Joining HRiE will contribute positively to developing a great school culture which supports the values, the key competencies and many learnings in the New Zealand Curriculum. HRiE is all about citizenship and about developing in children increased empathy.

HRiE provides plenty of thought-provoking discussion for adults and contributes to changes in approaches used. HRiE enriches school culture resulting in a better place of learning and growth.

Please contact me if you would like to know more about our experiences in human rights-based education.

Ian Poulter, Principal ( This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it )

24 February 2011

Bluestone School is a year 1-8 primary school in Timaru (decile 5)

Last Updated (Friday, 09 September 2011 11:46)