Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Education for Citizenship early years case studies

This website gives concrete examples for working on children's citizenship rights with very young children.

Following is information from the website about working with pre-primary school children on citizenship rights.

Learning about rights

Paisley Children’s Centre is a large, purpose-built family centre providing care and education for children aged from 6 weeks to those not yet attending primary school (76 full-time equivalent places).

The children come from various catchment areas and the nursery is based in central Paisley within Renfrewshire Council. The nursery has extended opening hours (7.30 am to 5.30 pm) to meet the diverse and sometimes challenging needs of the families.

The nursery has a staff team of 24 full-time and part-time staff who strive to provide a warm, supportive and nurturing educational experience for all of their families.

Aims of the project

Responsible active citizens

Staff in the nursery wanted to promote further active citizenship as a way of nursery life. They wanted to involve the children in teaching and learning, through genuine consultation. They also wanted to ensure that young children would recognise that rights are linked to responsibilities, fostering relationships based on mutual respect.

They developed two main initiatives which highlight their commitment to involving very young children in decision making.

· A children’s meeting room has been established where staff work with small groups of children to support them to express their views and be involved in meaningful decision making.

· Children are often involved in the nursery to ‘help’ with the organisation of resources. The children work together to decide which responsibility groups they will volunteer for. This serves to reinforce the importance and value placed on the children’s contribution to life in the centre.

Meeting room

The children’s meeting room was situated intentionally at the entrance to the building, and beside the parents’ room, to include everyone who is directly involved with the children. This provides the opportunity for staff and children to reinforce to families that children’s opinions are valued, sought and acted upon on a regular basis within the nursery.

The entrance to the children’s meeting area is illustrated by symbols based on the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Meaningful discussion

The area is used for purposeful and meaningful consultation with the children in areas that directly affect them. Some of these consultations have included:

  • Children’s Rules - which informed the rules for the whole nursery
  • What Makes Us Happy? - which informed the purchase of play resources, in the redevelopment of the literacy area
  • Curriculum Activities - children’s responses were used to plan meaningful activities on the topics of Halloween and Scotland.

Recording discussions

Mind mapping and symbols are used as a tool for discussion and staff find this is a useful technique to encourage all children to participate at their own individual level.

Responsibility groups

Staff worked with the children in small groups to identify and discuss the responsibilities that there were or should be within the nursery. After mind mapping these jobs, the children decided on names for the groups and produced badges for them.

The responsibility groups were:

  • the Peace Patrol
  • the Toy Tidiers
  • the Lunch Bunch
  • the Toilet Monitors.

Role of the adult in discussions

Staff in the nursery had clear guidelines to facilitate the children’s discussions:

  • Give clear guidelines at the beginning of the session - explain to the children what they are entitled to expect, but also what they may give to the group.
  • Discuss what will meet the needs of your service - ensure workable capabilities to ensure success and build on children’s self-esteem.
  • Encourage further thinking - respect children’s choices even when it may be the same group chosen week after week, exploring issues such as real ownership.
  • Promote further active citizenship as a way of nursery life - modelling genuine consultation and participation.

The two initiatives in the nursery have emphasised the central role the children play in learning, teaching and developing skills as responsible citizens. Children have learned that they have a valuable contribution to make to the nursery. They have explored their own values and those of others in a safe, supported environment, and have developed effective communication skills.

Meeting room

Children feel real ownership, having their own designated space for meaningful discussion, which is comfortable and attractive. The room clearly indicates to the whole community that the children's opinions are valued.

Appropriate resources are easily accessible for both children and staff and don’t need to be sought out prior to meetings or activities. Projects can be displayed, and added to for extended periods, effectively building on learning experiences.

Nursery staff ensure that children are aware that these consultations are used to inform improvements and change within the service.

Responsibility groups

The responsibility groups were a fun and appropriate way to engage with and motivate all children to be aware of the role of a responsible citizen.

The children developed relationships with peers and adults, based on mutual respect and responsibility. They had to link and apply different types of learning in new situations, carry out plans and resolve problems, while learning about early leadership roles.

A Curriculum for Excellence planning table

Successful learners

Confident individuals

Responsible citizens

Effective contributors

Carry out plans and resolve problems

Learn independently and as part of a group

Link and apply different types of learning in new situations

Make reasoned evaluations

Create and experience learning

Collaborate and negotiate in groups

Relate to others and manage themselves

Assess risk and take informed decisions

Achieve success in different areas of activity

Participate in goup activities

Develop a sense of fairness in respect of self and others

A form of trustworthiness

Become responsible

Make informed choices and decisions

Be sensitive to the feelings, interests and needs of others

Communicate effectively with others

Engage effectively and safely in a range of situations

Take the initiative and lead

Work in partnerships and teams

Express feelings in words

Parental involvement

Parents were surprised at the level of involvement the children had in the nursery and were encouraged to discuss their work with the children at home. They were very impressed by the responsibility that the children were able to demonstrate in carrying out their nursery jobs.

You will also find information about teaching on citizenship rights with primary and secondary school children.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Beyond Article 12 Essential Readings in children's participation

Beyond Article 12 Essential Readings in children’s participation by Henk van Beers, Brian Milne and Antonella Invernizzi was published in 2006 by Black on White Publications and aims to provide an overview of legal, philosophical, theoretical and practical writing from the broad debate on children's participation.

The book provides excerpts from key works of reference and established writers in three sections:
What does participation mean?
Are children citizens?
Children's participation in practice

Brief introductions to each section and subsection provide a guide through some of the issues that are often taken for granted by specialist writers. Suggestions for further reading are included so that readers can explore their own interests in greater depth.

From the introduction:

“As far as possible, we aimed to present a systematic, non-partisan and holistic view of the topic. By providing basic material on history, theory and practice we want to facilitate an increased understanding of the complex issue of children’s participation, as well as to encourage readers to seek further information. The Readings include legal instruments, philosophy, implementation, practice, experience and the broad debate on what children’s participation should or should not be.”


“Some of the most notable gaps occur in theory. There is no holistic approach to children’s participation. History, underlying philosophies and the implementation of legal instruments appear to be disconnected. Indeed one of the most disconcerting aspects of the way the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC, Reading 3) has been used by some devotees of child participation has been a total resistance to think beyond article 12.
Not only are other participation rights infrequently visited by writers and activists but also there is no critique of these oversights. Yet, when the work of pioneers is examined, a broader vision becomes apparent. The ideas of Janusz Korczak (1878/9–1942), the Polish doctor and philosopher who is often credited with beginning modern debates on children’s rights, most certainly harboured a wider range of possibilities. John Dewey’s educational theories (Reading 43) trusted children far more than many contemporary child participation enthusiasts and Ivan Illich’s critique of education (Reading 47) most certainly placed greater trust in the hands and minds of all ages – children included. Perhaps the most illustrative of all is the work of Alexander S. Neill (Reading 48) who foresaw, advocated and practiced intellectual and personal freedoms for children of the kind included much later in the UNCRC. Children give living examples that these principles work.”

Until the costs for printing have been recovered this book is only available in hard copy and can be ordered at Knowing Children. As per April 2010 there were 100 copies left. Price is USD 12.50 including postage and packaging worldwide.

I will publish a few extracts from the publication in future posts.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Participation rights of pre-mature babies

At what age can children participate?
From the moment they are born.
Priscilla Alderson, Joanna Hawthorne and Margaret Killen present a strong case for citizenship rights of babies based on fascinating research in four neonatal intensive care units in Southern England. Their paper aims to show how rights are realistic and relevant to premature babies and, therefore, to all older children too.

"part of being a rights-holder is to have some say in how one’s rights are defined and respected. There is a transfer of some acknowledged expertise and authority to the child. The neonatal examples suggest that babies too can have unique insight into their best interests, and adults need to take account of these if their decisions about care are to be adequately informed and humane."

Participation rights of young children

When it comes to children's participation it is rare to see involvement of children below the age of 8 years. Yet, very young children have the same rights to participation as any other children and they should be equally involved in matters that affect them.
Even a two year old child can be meaningfully involved in decision making. Take the example of a parent who prepares the clothes for her son to wear that day. It may well be that the boy says, 'I don't like this, I want to wear that!' The mother could then look at what the boy would like to wear and decide whether the clothes will suit the weather conditions. When they do, she could say, 'okay, fine, you can wear those clothes instead.' When the weather does not permit to wear the clothes the boy has identified, the mother should explain to her son that the clothes are either too hot/or too thin to wear given the circumstances. She can explain what the implications will be when he would wear the clothes he wants - catching a cold for example. This is a clear and simple example of children's involvement in decision making - in this case with a very young child. It typically happens within the family environment, it is not 'a big thing' but it may well be important for the child's development. The boy has been given an opportunity to be involved in a decision that affects him, he has been given choices, he has received information that will help him understand the implications of his choice. It also shows how the best interest of the child may play a role in such decisions - i.e. the mother's concern about her son's health in his choice of clothes to wear.

Over the years a number of articles have been published that look into young children's participation rights.

An important protagonist has been The Bernard van Leer Foundation who has been publishing Early Childhood Matters for many years.

Early Childhood Matters is a journal about early childhood. It looks at specific issues regarding the development of young children, in particular from a psychosocial perspective. It is published twice per year by the Bernard van Leer Foundation. Some of the issues have specifically focused on young children's participation rights:

Realising the rights of young children: progress and challenges

This issue looks at various aspects of how child rights are being realised. It starts with a look at General Comment 7 on implementing child rights in early childhood. Additional articles include contributions from child-focused organisations in India and Brazil, and discussions about child rights in relation to Roma children, the challenges of implementing child rights in emergency situations, the "forgotten article" regarding the right to play, improving child-friendliness of urban environments, improving the education of key professionals, and the development of indicators.

Young children's participation: Rhetoric or growing reality?

Raises the importance of providing participative environments to children in which they can express themselves readily, knowing they will be listened to. It presents an overview of current thinking at an international level on how young children can effectively play a role in programming and in decisions that affect their lives.

Listening to children

This edition focuses on participation by children of 0-7 years in the conceptualisation, implementation and evaluation of early childhood development programmes. Articles show how adults are taking the crucial steps in developing that participation: establishing environments and practices that enable young children to express themselves confidently and fully, and to develop some experiences in participation.

Effectiveness for children

Among the first publications looking at young children's involvement, this edition reviews ideas and programmes of work that seek the views of children and that value children as contributors to, and participants in, all aspects of early childhood development.

Other Bernard van Leer publications that specifically focus on rights of very young children, including participation rights, are:

A Guide to General Comment 7: Implementing Child Rights in Early Childhood

This book is a guide to implementing child rights in early childhood. It is based around the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child's General Comment no 7. It contains extracts from the papers submitted to the committee at the time of the Day of General Discussion which preceded the General Comment, and other relevant material.

Can you hear me? The right of young children to participate in decisions that affect them. By Gerison Lansdown, May 2005.

This publication makes the case for children’s participation and discusses how it can be put into practice and measured.

Young children's participation: Rhetoric or growing reality?
, November 2004.

This publication raises the importance of providing participative environments to children in which they can express themselves readily, knowing they will be listened to. It presents an overview of current thinking at an international level on how young children can effectively play a role in programming and in decisions that affect their lives.