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Values, Rights & Responsibilities

Values, Rights & Responsibilities An Article looking at the principles that should infuse all our work in school. Also shows where children's rights originated.

This is a Free Sample Resource
Categories: Article, Curriculum, PSHE, RE & Philosophy, All Ages

Tags: Rights Responsibilities Values
The History of Children's Rights

On 5th August 1942 Polish doctor and orphanage director Janusz Korkcak was given a simple choice. As his Jewish orphans waited, frightened and alone, on a train bound for Treblinka, he was recognised by an SS guard as the author of one of his children's favourite books. The guard offered to help him escape. Korczak refused, boarded the train, and remained with his orphans as they died in the gas chambers. He chose death, refusing to abandon the children he loved when they needed him most.

Korczak was a remarkable man who lived uncompromisingly by his values and who wrote extensively for and about children. He dedicated his life to their health and welfare. His most influential work was the Declaration of Children's Rights, a text that inspired the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.  

Article 13.1

This part of the UN Convention has direct relevance to the design of education at national and classroom level. It goes like this:

The child shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of the child's choice

194 countries including those of the UK have signed up to and ratified the convention. Somalia and the US have signed up but have yet to ratify.

UNICEF rose from the ashes of WW2 to provide long-term humanitarian and developmental support for children and mothers in developing countries. Its work is driven by the values embedded in the Rights of the Child and in recent years UNICEF-inspired programmes have been enthusiastically adopted by schools of the developed world.

Rights Respecting Schools

A pioneering UK project is the UNICEF Rights Respecting Schools Award lead by a handful of local authorities including Hampshire. It provides a values framework in which learning, behaviour, thinking and citizenship can flourish. Rather than a values-initiative or a bolt-on fix, this programme underpins all aspects of school life, leadership and decision making. It offers an environment in which self-esteem, morality, respect and global awareness can flourish.

Values and Beliefs

It can be interesting to distinguish between these two ideas. As a rule of thumb think about your reaction when someone criticises or contradicts you. If they are attacking one of your beliefs then you'll probably react in a rational, analytic way. If they attack your values, your response is more likely to be emotional and heart-felt.

For example, if I believe that it's wrong to steal but then someone proposes exceptions (such as theft by a starving child) then I'll probably engage in a debate about the legal issues around theft. But if someone challenges my honesty or trustworthiness I'll probably become angry and indignant.

Values, Rights and Responsibilities

Rights and Responsibilities are the guardians of our values. If we truly value something then we protect it by setting up appropriate and acceptable behaviours - actions that will demonstrate and maintain the value. Let's say we choose to value honesty. This would lead to a right to be told the truth and a responsibility to tell it. If we value human potential, then we have a right to learning and responsibility to let others teach.

Problems come when different people and groups of people value different things. This leads to contradictory rights and responsibilities and  conflicting behaviours. 

In the Classroom

Shared and agreed values, rights and responsibilities in the classroom lay the foundation for effective learning and high academic/non-academic standards. They prepare children for a shrinking world in which they will meet and work with people who value different things to them.

An effective way to embed values and their rights and responsibilities into your practice is simple: model them; bring them to life in who you are, how you teach and how you build effective learning relationships in the classroom.

Related Resources:

British Values Think Sheet

Positive Education

PSHE Think Sheet - Rights & Responsibilities

Should We Teach Service to Others?

Skills Think Sheet - Values

Values Think Sheet - Resilience


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