The UN Convention, the Rights of Children and the Purpose of Education

It concerns us greatly that the UN Convention is ignored when it comes to setting aims and objectives for education. How different our education system would be if we placed these articles at the heart of all we offered in the name of teaching and learning.

childrens-rights-1-728Searching for government documents relating to the UN Convention demonstrates the lack of commitment to this work.

A full-scale review of the UK’s response to the Convention was written in March 2010 – the last month of the Gordon Brown’s government. As we all know there have been immense legislative changes in education since then.

[This document says it’s “work in progress”. As the document is archived with no active replacement, one would suggest that work certainly isn’t “in progress”.]

There is a document from the Children’s Rights Director, Dr Roger Morgan, prior to this role being subsumed into the role of Children’s Commissioner, but reference to education was limited.

Child-rights-in-Pakistan-2There’s also a UK-wide review of UNCRC in 2014. On education, it talks of standards, free schools and academies – policies that don’t directly relate to the statements in Article 28 or 29. Surely, a response to the implementation of the UNCRC should actually refer to the bullet points within the articles.

(For the specific review, scroll to Appendix 6 and click on the highlighted “fifth periodic review report”)

[N.B. This document is virtually impossible to find. Hidden in government speak, a general internet search using “education + UN Convention on the Rights of the Child” will not find this document.]

Anne Longfield, Children’s Commissioner for England, continues to press the government on Children’s Rights but legislative response is severely lacking.


The clearest reference about the UN Convention in recent government documents comes in the form of a sentence or two in a paltry document about “Listening to Young People”. The brevity of this document and its total lack of anything positive shows the government’s disregard for young peoples’ voice – contravening Article 12.

It says,

“The UNCRC has not been incorporated into national law, so there is no statutory duty to comply with it.”

[Don’t we know it!]

“However, the government has reiterated its commitment to pay “due regard” to the convention when new policy is made and legislation proposed.”

[In other words, we won’t give due regard for anything other than acknowledging the existence of the Convention. We certainly won’t refer or cross-reference legislative changes, which in our opinion would be “due regard”.]

It’s not good enough. We wonder (or not) how many Ofsted reports refer to the UN Convention, other than reporting on Rights Respecting Schools. Without doing a major search through a year of school reports we assume there’s little or no reference to it at all.

Following on from our previous post about the UN Convention and the Rights of the Child, we’ve reviewed other articles within the document that we think relate to education, and how our children and young people aren’t been given the type of education to which they’re entitled.


The quotes on the left are from the UNICEF Factsheet on the UN Convention. Our comments, and where relevant, links to examples of our previous posts are in the right column.


UN Convention Article 3Di Comment
Article 2: Non-discrimination

“The convention applies to all children . . . . whatever their abilities. . . . No child should be treated unfairly on any basis”.

Our education system does discriminate in favour of those who are more academically capable. Equitable vocational studies are needed as a matter of urgency, and rights.

Article 3: Best interests of the child

“The best interests of children must be the primary concern in making decisions that may affect them”.

We’ve said this before: are high-stakes exams in the best interest of the child? Learning can work without them. Finland has none till 18+

Article 4: Protection of Rights

“Governments have a responsibility to take all available measures to make sure children’s rights are respected, protected and fulfilled”.

Try searching for the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child on the DoE website. It’s well-hidden. Once found, you’ll notice there’s been no new generic documents on the Convention since 2009. Very responsible.

Article 12: Respect for the views of the child

“When adults are making decisions that affect children, children have the right to say what they think should happen and have their opinions taken into account”.

Pupil participation works well in a small percentage of schools. School councils are increasing but we are still a very long way from children being fully involved in decision-making processes that affect their education.

For a more irreverent view,

Article 13: Freedom of Expression

“Children have the right to get and share information, as long as the information is not damaging to them or others”.

We need to teach empathy. Without it, how are children expected to know what is or isn’t damaging to others?

Article 14: Freedom of thought, conscience and religion

“Children have the right to think and believe what they want. . . . as long as they are not stopping other people from enjoying their rights”.

We need to enable children to think more about what they believe. We need to develop their opinions, being mindful of the needs of others. Prescriptive systems don’t allow this to happen.

Article 17: Access to information

“ Children have the right to get information that’s important to their health and wellbeing. Children should also have access to children’s books”.

School and municipal libraries are closing through lack of funds. This cannot happen. Children have the right to health & wellbeing information within their school, ensuring basic universal provision for all.

Article 19: Protection from all forms of violence

“Children have the right to be protected from being hurt and mistreated, physically or mentally”.

If children and young people don’t know what constitutes abuse, how can they be protected? SRE? Statutory for all? It would help.

Article 23: Children with disabilities

“Children who have any kind of disability have the right to special care and support . . . . so that they can live full and independent lives”.

Local authority provision in special and mainstream schools is constantly underfunded. We’re failing these children and young people.

Article 24: Health and health services

“Children have the right to good quality health care – to safe drinking water, nutritious food, a clean and safe environment, and information to help them stay healthy”.

Three words – Every Child Matters.


Still does. Our government chose to “archive” it.

Article 27: Adequate standards of living

“Children have the right to a standard of living that is good enough to meet their physical and mental health needs”.

Children need to know their rights and what constitutes good mental and physical health as well as being educated on how to improve their health.

Article 30: Children of minorities/indigenous groups

“Children have the right to learn about and practice their own culture, language and religion”.

This is one thing that schools do very well, and should be congratulated for their work when there’s such diversity to accommodate.


Article 31: Leisure, play and culture

“Children have the right to relax and play, and to join a wide range of cultural, artistic and other recreational activities”.

If only. We have frequently questioned this government’s commitment to cultural and art activities in schools. Learning through play continues to be side-lined as children grow.

Article 32: Child Labour

“The government should protect children from work that is dangerous or might harm their health or their education”.

Children need to know their rights.

Article 33: Drug Abuse

“Governments should use all means possible to protect children from the use of harmful drugs”.

“All possible means” doesn’t include reducing drug education in schools.

Article 34: Sexual exploitation

“Governments should protect children from all forms of sexual exploitation and abuse”.

Governments can’t protect children if they don’t insist on children being educated about sex and relationships – good and bad.

Article 42: Knowledge of Rights

“Governments should make the Convention known to adults and children. Adults should help children learn about their rights too”.

This Convention and the principles within need to be taught regularly in every school, regardless of their governance. This is the right of the child.

About 3D Eye

Gary Foskett and Clare Blackhall are educationalists, writers and consultants. We work with schools and other organisations who share our vision of how schools, businesses, etc should work in the 21st Century. We also run courses and contribute to conferences - speaking about our three dimensional model of intelligences and how schools, colleges and universities can develop the full potential of all their staff and students. We also offer consultancy for businesses and public sector organisations to support staff training and organisational change and development. For more detailed information read our blog at or see our website at
This entry was posted in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

Please leave a comment - and tell others about 3Di!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s