The recent Manchester City Council OUR YEAR initiative gave us a great platform to amplify our collective Voice at Beaver Road! We staged a whole-school community street festival with over thirty stalls, interactive exhibitions and installations and invited our familes and local advocates to 'hear our Voice' , learn more about UNICEF's child friendly cities programme, and be affected by our joint passion to champion all children's Rights and make noise around social justice.
Article 12 states that every child has the right to express their views, feelings and wishes in all matters affecting them, and to have their views considered and taken seriously. At Beaver Road, Article 12 underpins all that we do as educators and by being ready and responsive to every child’s voice, we are fulfilling this crucial principle of the convention. Our children are active, present and ‘in charge’ of their learning!
We welcome every child to become a Rights Champion in whichever capacity, flavour or area they choose, or to link in with their special interests and talents. This could be on a class-based level, as someone who helps their friends or raises an injustice… or this could be in a much more visible way like when our Y6 protesters marched and shared poetry in the city centre. We do not limit the number of Rights Champions at Beaver Road and encourage children to self-nominate and share their ideas with their class teacher or RRSA lead. It really is an organic process and is not always about the end-product. Quite often, the children sub-contract roles for their particular project, whether it is a charity fundraiser, a sport project or a festival plan! Last year, our army of Rights Champs achieved so much, including:
- Opening the GM Getting Moving Conference with Andy Burnham / leading workshops to delegates
- Organising and running a road safety parking protest outside our First School campus
- Strong and powerful delivery of protest poetry in MCR city centre, inspired by the Global Goals
- A Global Goals festival in the woods on our Junior School campus
- Charity fundraising for multiple causes
- Work in our local community to support 'Didsbury Good Neighbours'
- Manchester Pupil Parliament collective, including a city centre protest and visit to Parliament in London
- School policy review and presentation to Governors
- Whole-staff training led by pupils
- Pupil Mentoring Service, led by upper school pupils
- Children as young as 4 years old, speaking out in assembly to alert us to the climate crisis!
Duty Bearers and Rights Holders
Our children understand the concept and their position as Rights Holders and the role of adults’ as Duty Bearers. As the name suggests, a duty bearer is ‘duty-bound’ to ensure that all children enjoy their Rights and in this way, act as champions for all children in both an educational and pastoral sense. As a celebration of this, our children look forward to nominating their ‘duty bearer of the week’ by recording their reason or rationale next to the member of staff’s name and posting this in our Poling Station area. The announcement of the winner is a much-anticipated moment in our weekly celebration assemblies and some friendly staff competition has developed since this was introduced! Children also understand that they can be advocates for other children and their Rights when difficulties, challenges or danger arises. This could be on a wider or even global level and demands a high degree of empathy and respect for dignity from our children. We are happy to have such high expectations from all of our children and this understanding is a deeper element of our Gold level RRSA work that goes to the heart of what respect, justice and dignity really mean.
The latest addition to our Pupil Voice portfolio has been through joining Manchester’s Pupil Parliament. This is the ONLY pupil parliament collective in the UK and meets regularly to discuss campaign ideas, Global Goals (in particular, our school focus on Goal 5 – Gender Equality) and to debate with local politicians and young change-makers. Particular highlights of our year so far were visiting the Houses of Parliament in London and taking part in a city protest to mark the 30th anniversary of the convention. You may wish to read about this in the local press…
We have also taken action this year in exploring and campaigning to raise awareness of UNICEF's Child Friendly Cities programme. We turned our Junior school site into a Play HQ during our March collective and made detailed plans and proposals to stop the errosion of true play, to make our cities child-centric, rather than car-centric!
In July, 2022, members of the MCR Pupil Parliament joined together to form Manchester's first ever pupil-led safeguarding conference. Data and findings from our Child Friendly Cities work gave us the platform we needed to discuss 'feeling safe' with many key stakeholders. This will now be an annual event in which promises and pledges will be revisited and new actions will be set by the children.