A Middlesbrough school has earned praise from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) after being judged worthy of receiving the coveted Silver award for respecting children’s rights.
St Augustine’s Catholic Primary in Coulby Newham was commended for embedding the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child throughout its policies, practice and culture.
Headteacher Martin Macaulay said: “Student voice has always been strong in the school, but our Year 6 teacher Joanne Nicholson, supported by all the staff, has taken this to another level by engaging with UNICEF’s Rights Respecting Awards.
“They have provided a way of drawing student voice groups such as the Student Council, Anti-Bullying Ambassadors, the Chaplaincy Team and the Mini Vinnies all together under the umbrella of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“The convention has 54 articles and so many relate directly to our children’s everyday lives. They understand how simple things such as playground behaviour and attendance link to the right to play and the right to an education, as well as how our safeguarding arrangements link to the right to be protected from harm and to be safe online.
“Other articles relate more to global issues and our pupils have learned about children throughout the world who don’t have the opportunity to have an education because of poverty or having to go out to work.”
The UNICEF report on St Augustine’s says children understood that rights are inalienable, unconditional and universal, but that some children don’t have their rights met.
“Children, young people and adults collaborate to develop and maintain a school community based on equality, dignity, respect, non-discrimination and participation,” it says. “This includes learning and teaching in a way that respects the rights of both educators and learners and promotes wellbeing.
“Relationships at St Augustine’s are mutually respectful and caring. One child said, ‘It’s not like a school, we’re a family, there’s always a friend around to help.’
“Health and wellbeing are key drivers at St Augustine’s. Some groups of children and staff are Headstart trained and there is a weekly bereavement group where children can go to talk if they feel sad. A child said, ‘We can talk about mental health and what’s worrying us because we have a right to be safe and listened to.’
“Children unanimously agreed that they are treated fairly and quoted the example that if two children argued, staff would listen to both sides. A Year 6 child said, ‘People here focus on rights and respect and everyone is treated the same it doesn’t matter about their race or gender or anything else.’”
Mr Macaulay added: “The feedback in the report is fabulous and the real strength of what we’re doing is the way the children are driving everything.”
UNICEF outlined the steps St Augustine’s needs to take to earn its Gold standard, which the school has set its sights on winning within the next 12 to 18 months.