Special schools and the Convention

Children and young people can access their rights and others through their school’s everyday activities.

As the Rights Respecting Schools Award demonstrates, the UNCRC can be embedded within a school’s everyday practice.

This resource is intended to help teachers in special schools link the convention to their practice. The list is by no means comprehensive and only covers a few of the Articles, but it makes clear just how much a special school’s everyday practice can be linked to the UNCRC. If you are a teacher at an RRSA special school please let us know how and what we can add to this list.

Special school practice linked to UNCRC articles

Article 3: the best interests of the child must be a top priority in all decisions and actions that affect children.
All the school does with its staff working with pupils, parents and specialist agencies to help create individual, bespoke plans of support and care for children are examples of Article 3.

Article 12: 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. This right applies at all times, for example during immigration proceedings, housing decisions or the child’s day-to-day home life.
Self and peer assessment in lessons, displays of pupil work, outcomes from school council and other pupil-led groups are all examples of Article 12. In addition, for children with communication difficulties all of the strategies and specialist equipment that may be used as part of unaided and aided Alternative Augmentative Communication are also ways of giving pupils a voice. Here the staff play a crucial role in often being the advocates for children – helping their voice to be heard in lessons, at play time, at lunch time and at annual EHCP meetings.

Article 23: a child with a disability has the right to live a full and decent life with dignity and, as far as possible, independence and to play an active part in the community. Governments must do all they can to provide support to disabled children and their families.
Schools are not only supporting disabled children and young people in the present but they are helping to empower them and their families for the future. The Convention is for everyone under the age of eighteen but of course human rights are for life!


Article 28: every child has the right to an education. Primary education must be free and different forms of secondary education must be available to every child. Discipline in schools must respect children’s dignity and their rights. Richer countries must help poorer countries achieve this.
Restorative justice, positive behaviour management and peer mediation are just some of the ways that schools will be helping Article 28 to be realised for their pupils. Policies like the intimate care and behaviour management policies will reflect this too by showing how the child’s dignity is being respected.

Article 29: education must develop every child’s personality, talents and abilities to the full. It must encourage the child’s respect for human rights, as well as respect for their parents, their own and other cultures, and the environment.
Any of the ‘next steps’ that a child or young person has been given are examples of Article 29. These could be targets associated with learning, behaviour, home-school agreements or perhaps linked to achieving a particular physical activity. All of the different learning strategies being used in lessons are ways of helping children develop their potential to the full. Specific rights can be linked to parts of the curriculum- perhaps it’s an example from history like the denial of children’s rights during wartime or in the Victorian era; a global citizenship topic about fair trade; a particular story that links to rights; PSHE and health and well-being; a school event like anti-bullying week which focuses on the importance of respect and everyone having the right to be who they are or a celebration event for a particular religious festival.

Article 31: every child has the right to relax, play and take part in a wide range of cultural activities.
There will be an endless list here of what a school is doing to help children access this right. All the specialist support and equipment provided for play, any designated areas within the school that are used for quiet times and reflection and of course all the events, activities and trips that take place both within and outside the school. Some of these may also link to other Articles of the UNCRC- for example, a ‘healthy eating’ day to Article 24, e safety week to Articles 16 & 17 and anti-bullying week to Articles 2 and 19.

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