What challenges have you faced in putting the Award in place in your school and how did you overcome them?
Juliet: One challenge was the size of our school. In my Bronze training session from UNICEF UK I sat at a table with several others and three were from ‘one form entry’ primary schools and I can remember thinking I was the only secondary and the only special school there. I thought, ‘If you have a one from entry primary, all under one roof, it will need a different approach compared to our 11-site, city-wide school.’
I went away realising that Rights Respecting would, and could, look different at James Brindley, there isn’t a ‘one size fits all’; rather it is all about the RRSA ‘outcomes’. After some thought we decided that we would start with PSHE and humanities, as those subjects have strong links with ‘rights’ and they run through the whole school. But as we did more, I realised how much we were doing already, and it became about bringing work together under a Rights Respecting banner. [This was our Bronze starting point, it is now literally ‘everywhere’, linked by our ‘Think Differently’ 5 mission aims and our 5 parts on our school’s pupil-designed Charter].
The second challenge was making RRSA work in our unique school setting. RRSA do not have a fixed model of how it looks, the programme is flexible. So, it was about making the links between our work and Rights Respecting that was appropriate for us. For example, we put a UNICEF UK champion in every centre who are the eyes and ears on the ground, they can effect change too and can share new resources, project ideas or best practice examples. We also made Rights Respecting simple and user friendly; to begin with we encouraged pupils to participate in displays and teachers make links within lessons.
Hardip: There have been two key challenges when I look back. For a school like ours, where we have so many different centres and where we cater for the different needs of pupils, having a consistent approach has been difficult but not impossible. We have a coordinator, Juliet, but because we are multicentre, we have been reliant on individuals in each centre. And the logistics of making sure lines of communication have been open has been a challenge, not an insurmountable one, but not one that single site schools would have.
The other challenge has been how ready our young people have been, or not been, to take on board the rights. All our young people have had some form of trauma, physical or mental, and you need to be able to overcome some of your circumstances before you can explore your situation. Once they have found themselves and are in a position to have a confidence boost, our Rights Respecting whole school charter is there for them to take on board and help them celebrate themselves as they become young adults.