What's a rights respecting school?

Here at George Watson’s College we’re very proud to be a Unicef Gold Rights Respecting School.

But what does it mean to hold this prestigious accreditation, which is awarded following a rigorous assessment process? 

In this Why Watson’s blog, we’ll give you a bit more background, and explain how it fits the culture of life at our school. 

What is the Unicef Rights Respecting Schools programme? 

Unicef’s Rights Respecting Schools programme which encourages schools to put children’s rights at the heart of everything that forms their education. 

The framework for this is based on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). 

The accreditation programme includes three levels: 

  • Bronze - Rights Committed 
  • Silver - Rights Aware 
  • Gold - Rights Respecting 

Watson’s is one of only three independent schools (based on the most recent available data) in Scotland to have the coveted Gold status. Indeed only 4% of all schools in Scotland hold this prestigious accreditation, which can take up to four years to secure. 

How does the programme work? 

There are four key areas that are measured by Unicef in determining Rights Respecting School awards. These are:

  • Wellbeing
  • Participation
  • Relationships
  • Self-esteem

The premise of the programme is that schools don’t just focus on these areas, but they embed the values within them into everyday life both in and out of the classroom. It’s not just for show. 

Pupils at Watson’s are well-behaved aren’t they? 

Absolutely! Respect is a two-way thing, and being a Rights Respecting School means we treat our pupils with respect, but they are expected to do likewise with staff and classmates. 

Let’s be honest here, though, children will be children! They’ll make mistakes and sometimes things don’t quite go according to plan. Being a Rights Respecting School gives us a structure that ensures we’re able to support them to learn if they make a decision that they will possibly regret. That approach is so important.  

For example, research from Unicef shows children are healthier and happier. A conclusive 97% of head teachers surveyed said that the award had “improved children’s respect for themselves and each other.”

And 93% of head teachers also said the award had helped children to, “embrace diversity and overcome prejudices.”

The right words are a big part of the Rights Respecting Schools programme, as Unicef reports it, “gives children a powerful language to use to express themselves and to challenge the way they are treated. 

“They are also able to challenge injustices for other children. Children and young people are empowered to access information that enables them to make informed decisions about their learning, health and wellbeing.”

This isn’t just about playground disagreements, but our children learn about the disadvantages that many of their own age face in different parts of the world. 

They also understand the significant risk that climate change poses, a problem they are sure to face more significantly in their lifetime, than ours. 

Perhaps most importantly, schools believe that relationships are better and stronger in Rights Respecting Schools. 98% of head teachers believe that it helps improve children’s relationships behaviour.

Pupils also become more active and involved in school life. Children being involved in their education, being encouraged to think for themselves, even debate with their teachers (right place, right time!) is good for effective learning. 

If you’ve read other parts of our Why Watson’s blog you’ll have seen we believe strongly in empowering children to find their path to learning effectively, and we give them the freedom to succeed. Of course, that doesn’t mean our expectations are not very high - they are! 

Tell me more about the culture of your school?

We have four values, which are at the core of everything we do, and how we live at Watson’s

There are also several other key initiatives that define our approach.

Project 810 builds on our commitment as a Rights Respecting School and on our many other long-standing and successful programmes to encourage, nurture and support pupil activity, agency and leadership in three interrelated areas:

  • Action for Fairer Communities
  • Action for Environmental Sustainability
  • Action for Global Understanding 

Our Senior School is rightly proud of its status as an LGBT Youth Scotland Gold Charter School. This was an extensive process and included the launch of the first Gender and Sexuality Alliance (GSA) in August 2015.  We’re going to publish more about this in a future blog. 

We’re hugely committed to an extensive charity programme, and our pupils have the opportunity to volunteer. This is part of our wider Partnerships and Outreach programme