Advice from an RRSA Coordinator at George Heriot’s Junior School
Rachel McKinnon is Head of Extra-Curricular Enhancement within George Heriot’s Junior School in Edinburgh and teaches a primary seven class. She says knowledge of rights has developed the children’s empathy and also empowered them with a sense of agency.
“Many of the children here have never experienced what it is like to have a right taken away – so you are trying to teach six and seven year olds what it might be like not to have nutritious food, health care or clean water. As a result of that, there has been a lot of work on empathy and growth mind-sets.
“For teachers who are putting the Award into practice I would say, be realistic in your time frame. Go for quality rather than quantity; for me it was about establishing key priorities and going one step at a time rather than bombarding other teachers.
“I had to find the balance of supporting teachers, while still ensuring they had the opportunity to take ownership of the RRSA in their own way. If I just presented colleagues with resources then it became a bit ‘paint by numbers’ in that all they would all they have to do was present the work to their class. Give just enough support but also encourage teachers to take ownership of it themselves.
“At the beginning it was another thing to fit into the timetable whereas now everyone ‘gets it’ and knows it’s worth it. For many, it was the ‘why’, and if you can establish that quite quickly and get them to see the value that this could have then they can see the big picture quite early.”
“For me the best aspect of teaching is that buzz of working alongside children and seeing them reach a place over the course of the year where they ‘find themselves’. That’s where primary seven is really a magic year.”
“The Award has given a balance; children feel empowered but also have an inclusive ethos where they respect the rights of others as well as understand their own. As teachers we hope these children will go on to be the people to advocate for the rights of people who are unable to access them. One day I hope they will be lawyers, politicians or whatever it is they choose to do, and I hope they will have that empathy and that voice in their community.”
George Heriot’s, an all-through independent school in Edinburgh, has been a Rights Respecting school since 2011. The senior school was first accredited at Gold: Rights Respecting in 2015, while the junior school became Silver: Rights Aware since 2014. In May 2018 the two schools were accredited as one at Gold, marking the pinnacle of a seven year journey.