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Town building on schools’ human rights approach (Feb 2009)

Last Updated (Tuesday, 30 November 1999 12:00)

Schools in the English town of Andover have made such an impact on their local community through implementing Hampshire's Rights, Respect, Responsibility approach, the town has decided, with the help of senior school students, to become a "rights-respecting town". Read more.


Rights and Responsibilities Agreements (Oct 2008)

Last Updated (Thursday, 25 March 2010 09:46)

Negotiated agreements are a key tool for introducing the concepts of rights and responsibilities, the human rights of children (if mapped to UNCRoC), and the processes whereby ‘human rights' have developed. The results of agreements successfully negotiated, and consistently promoted and enforced at classroom and school level are improved respect and behaviour amongst members of the school community (including teachers!).

They are often a good starting point for the roll-out of a Rights, Respect, Responsibility approach at the beginning of the school year. But the process needs to be informed by good teacher understanding of the rationale for the agreements based on human rights principles.

A recent review of progress in Hampshire, England, points to what can go wrong when this doesn't happen. Teachers and schools that do not enter into a genuine process of negotiation, and who make children's human rights somehow conditional on meeting arbitrary responsibilities do not get the hoped-for results in terms of student ownership and responsibility!

Experience suggests strongly that a whole-staff workshop on a human rights approach to education needs to precede the general development of rights and responsibilities agreements in schools.

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Plugging into HRE discussion and work in other countries (Oct 2008)

Last Updated (Saturday, 10 May 2014 11:11)

Human Rights in Education is part of a worldwide human rights education movement.

The best discussions happen on a listserv managed by Human Rights Education Associates (HREA) - ‘an international non-governmental organisation that supports human rights learning; the training of activists and professionals; the development of educational materials and programming; and community-building through on-line technologies.' You can subscribe by visiting their website at

The People's Movement for Human Rights Learning (PDHRE) ( is the NGO that prompted the UN Decade for HRE and the UN World Programme for HRE.


Reflecting the human rights mission in the School Charter (Auckland Girls Grammar) (Sep 2008)

Last Updated (Thursday, 25 March 2010 09:42)

Recognising the human rights mission of the school and making clear reference to human rights in the School Charter is crucial to developing understanding of human rights and responsibilities in the school community. It also helps create the planning and review focus necessary to drive successful implementation of the Initiative to generate the sort of results we know can be achieved through human rights-based education.

As part of the Human Rights in Education Initiative, Auckland Girls Grammar School has made clearer references to human rights in their 2008 School Charter. In its preamble. the revised Charter clearly states that

As a community we acknowledge the right of our young people to an education that respects and helps realise their human rights and those of others.

Our school is one of the founding partners of the Human Rights in Education initiative. The project aims to develop New Zealand's schools as communities in which human rights and responsibilities are known, promoted and lived.

The descriptions of the school's various educational provisions make explicit reference to, helping to reinforce understanding of, the human rights mission of the school eg

Committed to the right to education for all, Auckland Girls' Grammar School is the lead school for a Teen Parenting Unit for young mothers from the greater Auckland area.

The school's statement of values, using the acrostic PRIDE includes clear references to human rights:

Respect - All members of the Auckland Girls' Grammar School Community will honour the unique qualities that every student and staff member brings to the school. They will show respect at all times for themselves, others, human rights, and the environment.

Empathy - All members of the Auckland Girls' Grammar School Community will have an understanding of the feelings of others based on an understanding of their inherent dignity and rights

The Charter explains that the school's involvement in the Initiative underpins the school's priorities for the next five years:

Contributing to these strategic directions, our school will develop as a community that knows, promotes and lives human rights and responsibilities.

Many of the strategic goals and objectives are expressed in explicit human rights terms: eg

Auckland Girls' Grammar School will cater for the academic, sporting, cultural and social needs and rights of all students, so each individual experiences success and strives for personal excellence.

Auckland Girls' Grammar School will continue to develop and implement practices and programmes that encourage students to respect and understand justice and human rights issues.


Election year: tackling political apathy (Sep 2008)

Last Updated (Thursday, 25 March 2010 11:17)

Here's a topical issue during an election year: "Why do so few young people show interest in government and politics?" asks Rob McCrae, ICT Director at Diocesan School for Girls. "Because they experience no say in what affects them."

Rob came across this interesting US blog on the subject:

The Human Rights in Education Initiative offers a framework that helps to address so many of the challenges we face in educating young New Zealand citizens.

In their 2005 book, Empowering Children, Brian Howe and Katherine Covell explain convincingly why traditional approaches to citizenship fail and a human rights-based approach succeeds. Civic education tends to focus on the arcane mechanics of voting systems and parliamentary procedure to be used sometime in the future when young people attain voting age. For many students the content is dry and irrelevant.

There are compelling reasons to take a human rights-based approach to citizenship education, particularly in New Zealand:

  • Citizenship is defined by rights and responsibilities.
  • The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) is the most authoritative statement of the rights and duties of citizens everywhere, providing a platform for non-partisan education in what it means to be a New Zealand and global citizen.
  • The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child makes it clear that children are citizens, with rights and responsibilities that apply to them now, not in the future. The Convention gives students and teachers a coherent framework to practise active citizenship as part of school life. The immediate application of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child to children's lives contributes to engaged and effective learning.
  • Addressing elements of New Zealand's history from a human rights perspective - eg the Treaty of Waitangi, Parihaka, the 1940s campaign for human rights - helps build a sense of New Zealand citizenship.
  • Using the human rights framework provides a link between New Zealand and global citizenship.

The emphasis on the right to participation (UNCRoC articles 12 and 13) in human rights-based education is the key to successful citizenship education.

If you're talking about the election with students, don't forget to tie the discussion to UDHR article 21, and Kate Sheppard's campaign and New Zealand's 1893 achievement in being the first nation state to give every adult the right to participate in choosing their government!


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