Inclusive practice bolstered by children’s rights.
Ana Ionita, RRSA Lead at SS Peter and Paul’s Primary School, explains what Rights Respecting Schools has meant to their school and how it has supported them to work on a programme of equality, diversity and inclusion.
A process not a journey
“Many years ago, at the start of this process, we often quoted our Rights Respecting ‘journey’. As we moved through Bronze, and then Silver, that term ‘journey’ was still referred to. It was during the reflective period before being accredited at Gold for the first time, that it became clearer that it wasn’t really the best word to apply.
“A ‘journey’ by nature, implies reaching a destination, and yet our intention was never to work hard to achieve an award, or get to a final destination, it was to ensure our children not only reaped the benefits from knowing their rights, but also how this knowledge would help them take their place in society as they developed – growing in confidence in how to champion the rights of others.
“Achieving Gold in July 2019 and safely negotiating the Covid pandemic was testament to how important our work in this area was as a school. To be reaccredited with Gold after a visit in June 2023 affirmed RRSA’s importance to this school. As a Catholic school, along with our faith and values, the concept behind the RRSA is at the core of what we teach and how our children develop.”
Awareness of race underpinned by children’s rights
“For the past two years, SS Peter and Paul’s Primary School has been working with the Redbridge Education Wellbeing Team on their Race and Equality Awareness (REA) Scheme. This has been a process whereby we have focused on our school’s racial awareness, our areas of strength and needs with regards to this and how we go about promoting racial equality.
“This process has major layers of overlap with our work on the RRSA not only through its content, which is all about protecting the rights of our children and their families, particularly when it comes to race.
“Through half-termly networking events, it has given our leaders the chance to promote the virtues and impact of the RRSA with leaders from across the borough. At these events, we share our successes and actions which have come directly from our position as a Gold Rights Respecting School. Our children help bring our community together through international and culture days, alongside workshops with other faith groups.
“Each year, our pupils pitch to become Wellbeing Champions in order to promote children’s rights, inclusion and improve mental health. Those pupils who are successful attend training delivered by the deputy headteacher and are given roles at key times (break times, Mental Health Week, new pupils arriving) as well as raising awareness through assemblies. The Pupil Champions are supported by an adult Wellbeing Team. This includes key duty bearers such as the headteacher, as well as support staff including those trained to deliver emotional literacy support (ELSAs).
“At the start of our work on the Race and Equality Awareness (REA) Scheme, parental engagement and feedback proved to be a big barrier. We historically generate our best feedback from parents when they are on site, such as during parent consultation meetings, and when paper-based surveys are used. The REA Scheme makes use of an electronic survey to help gain parent views but with language barriers and some IT support issues, this proved difficult. Due to the fact the views of those who may be living with barriers or inequalities around race are those we need and value most, it is hard if we are still not finding a way for them to be heard.
“The speed at which terminology and language surrounding race and diversity can change and adapt is also something we find hard to keep up with. The embedded, unchanging nature of the CRC and being a Rights Respecting school means, once again, along with our faith values, we have something concrete to return to which always puts the interests of all children at its heart.
“Our school charter, built from the CRC, as decided by the children, is for all no matter their race, religion or abilities.
Communication is key
“Communication has been key. This has included communication with those who bring the knowledge and skillset to help you navigate what can be very difficult and tricky social areas. Also communication with similar settings who may have begun the process of focusing on work on EDI already and communication with stakeholders such as pupils and parents, so we can get the broadest set of views we can as to how the school and its procedures are seen by those it impacts on greatest.
“There are difficult conversations to be had, and sometimes elements you may not have been aware of, but all feedback helps move your school in the right direction to having equality at the heart of its work.”
School context: SS Peter and Paul’s Catholic Primary School has 392 pupils on roll and is situated in Ilford in the London Borough of Redbridge; 64.3% of pupils speak English as an additional language; 19.4% of children receive Pupil Premium funding; 2.3% of children have an Education, Health and Care Plan; and 11.2% receive SEND support.