Level 2 Award
St. Columba’s College Portaferry has become the first post-primary school on Northern Ireland to achieve the UNICEF Level 2 Rights Respecting School Award.
The UNICEF UK Rights Respecting School Award (RRSA) is based on principles of equality, dignity, respect, non-discrimination and participation. The RRSA seeks to put the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child at the heart of a school’s ethos and culture to improve well-being and develop every child’s talents and abilities to their full potential. A rights-respecting school is a community where children’s rights are learned, taught, practised, respected, protected and promoted. Young people and the school community learn about children’s rights by putting them into practice every day.
To achieve the UNICEF UK Rights Respecting School Award,
St. Columba’s had to implement four evidence-based standards:
• Rights-respecting values underpin leadership and management;
• The whole-school community learns about the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child;
• The school has a rights-respecting ethos;
• Children are empowered to become active citizens and learners.
Full accreditation was achieved by an external assessment process, whereby evidence was collated to show that the four standards had been met.
Recognition of Commitment – Achieved in 2011
The Principal and school leaders committed to becoming a right-respecting school. Children and young people worked alongside adults to decide how to develop a whole school rights-respecting approach. The school submitted electronic evidence to show the development of a baseline and action plan.
Level 1 – Achieved in 2012
The school implemented the action plan and made good progress towards embedding the values and principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into its ethos and curriculum. Assessors visited the school to accredit progress.
Level 2 – Achieved in 2013
The school has fully embedded the values and principles of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child into its ethos and curriculum across all areas of the school. Assessors visited the school to establish that the Convention is embedded.
What impact does it have?
On the school
• RRSA is not an initiative, but instead provides an overarching set of values that improve the climate for learning and within which other initiatives can sit
• A deeper and more cohesive way of working
• Improved relationships with pupils and a reduced hierarchical divide between staff and pupils, due to a common rights-respecting language.
• Improved self esteem and feelings of being valued and listened to
• Increased levels of respect for each other, leading to improved relationships with other pupils and with staff
• A sense of security as rights-respecting language and behaviour is used consistently throughout the school
• Improved attainment and attendance, and a reduction in exclusions
• An understanding and respect of religions, cultures, beliefs and abilities different to their own
• A wider and deeper understanding of the world in which they live.
• Strengthened collaborative working
• Increased consultative approach with other adults and pupils
• A sense of ownership in developing an approach that meets the needs and aspirations of the school as a whole
• A sense that the whole school is working towards a common goal, leading to feelings of empowerment for both staff and pupils
• A platform is developed for parental engagement and discussion.
We were assisted throughout the process by Mr David McGimpsey, UNICEF (Northern Ireland). A video outlining our Rights Respecting Journey is available on our website, www.stcolumbascollegeportaferry.co.uk – the website also contains some additional resources and materials.