The British Humanist Association (BHA) has responded to the Office of the Children’s Commissioner’s (OCC’s) consultation, A rights-based approach to education: What are the characteristics of an education system which protects and promotes children’s rights? In its response the BHA has welcomed the OCC’s ‘Proposals for the characteristics of a rights-promoting education system’, and suggested a number of ways in which they can be strengthened.
In particular, the BHA’s response has emphasised:
- the need to define what is meant by a ‘broad curriculum’, specifically identifying which subjects this might include (the BHA’s interests lying in science, religious education (RE), personal, social, health and economic education (PSHE) and sex and relationships education (SRE), and citizenship)
- the need to ensure pupils’ health and wellbeing – with further reference to PSHE/SRE and also spiritual, moral, social and cultural development
- the need to guarantee pupils’ ‘Gillick competence’ rights, i.e. that once a child obtains sufficient understanding and intelligence to be mature enough to make up their own mind on topics such as religion and belief, opting out (or not) of religious education, collective worship and sex education, and accessing sexual health services, then that right should belong to the child and not the parent
- the need to prevent discrimination on the basis of any protected characteristics, with particular reference to religious schools
The BHA is a member of both the Children’s Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) and Rights of the Child UK (ROCK), supporting moves to incorporate the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) directly into UK law.
BHA Education Campaigner Richy Thompson commented, ‘We welcome the Office of the Children’s Commissioner’s exploration of a rights-based approach to education and the focus on children’s rights in particular. The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child guarantees children access to knowledge and skills, supports their health and wellbeing, ensures that their voices are heard, and means that they should grow up in a free society that respects diversity on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation or religion or belief.
‘The UK can be proud of its human rights record but still has a long way to go in recognising children’s rights in particular and we will continue to speak up in favour of a change in laws and practices where there are currently deficiencies.’
For further comment or information, please contact Richy Thompson on 020 7324 3072.
Read more about the BHA’s campaigns work on schools and education: https://humanism.org.uk/campaigns/schools-and-education/
The British Humanist Association is the national charity working on behalf of ethically concerned, non-religious people in the UK. It is the largest organisation in the UK campaigning for an end to religious privilege and to discrimination based on religion or belief, and for a secular state.