Training teachers in Iceland about the Rights Respecting Schools Award
Rights Respecting Schools Programme Director Frances Bestley recently visited Iceland to train teachers in implementing children’s rights in school. The Rights Respecting Schools Award is growing in scale and attracting international attention, with schools as far afield as Dubai signing up for the programme.
Here, Frances talks about her visit to Iceland, how rights are intrinsic to the country’s curriculum and her appearance on Iceland’s national news.
People always ask me whether Rights Respecting Schools exist in other countries. My response is that yes they do, not yet as many as there are in the UK, but lots of countries are really interested in what we do. Iceland is the latest country.
Several months ago I rather speculatively agreed to help train some teachers with UNICEF Iceland as they decided to pilot the RRSA with some of their schools. After lots of emails going backwards and forwards we agreed that I would focus on training the teachers on using activities about rights in their classrooms so an adaptation of our “101 ways to teach about rights”.
The day has finally arrived and I’m sitting in a coffee shop having just had breakfast waiting for my Icelandic colleague to pick me up. I’m feeling rather daunted and wondering whether this has been a sensible decision. I know very little about the Icelandic education system apart from the fact that there are just over 250 schools and that one of the pillars of their education system is human rights and democracy. How will our training work in such a different context?
Many hours later I emerge from the training feeling relieved. I have been introduced to a whirl of school principals, members of UNICEF Iceland, had the training videotaped, and as part of the launch of the work have been photographed for the national papers and interviewed for Icelandic TV. The teachers worked very hard and many of them made a point of telling me how much they enjoyed and learned from the training. They have all identified next steps for their schools and are planning to put rights into their topics.
Teachers in Iceland have very similar hopes and challenges for their work as teachers in the UK. Their top priorities for children as discussed through “Wants and Needs” are identical to UK teachers except they include shelter rather than non-discrimination which can be explained by the climate and a more equal and currently less diverse population. And an Icelandic teacher is the only person who has ever identified the mystery city in our training!