The Imagineers

Embedding children’s rights in higher education teaching programmes

By Dr Elaine Allan - 24 February 2022

Dr Elaine Allan shares how a transferrable child rights-based approach to developing, designing, and delivering higher education can be embedded across all Robert Gordon University Schools.

The Scottish Government is leading a fundamental shift in Scottish society to spark a revolution in children’s rights through policy and a call to action. Their aim is for all children and young people to know their rights while acknowledging that awareness and understanding is lower than it should be.

To address this, they have launched an awareness campaign to encourage the whole of Scottish society, including Higher Education Institutions, to become children’s rights defenders.  They agree there is an increasing need for Public Involvement (including the voice of children and young people) – to be more evident in the development, design, and delivery of higher education training programmes to progress the rights of children.

In 2018, a group of 40 children from across Aberdeen City schools called The Imagineers invited me to meet them. Aged 9-13, they understood their rights and wanted to share their knowledge, asking me to become an Imagineer Champion defending children’s rights, which I accepted. The role includes actively engaging and listening to the Imagineers, sharing their ideas, and taking direct action to ensure their voices are heard and acted upon. The group was concerned about mental health and wellbeing and thought that by involving appropriate professionals a Child Rights-Based approach could influence the delivery of Higher Education and School Nurse Services in particular. I also became an Unfeartie, an individual who is brave in discussing and defending children’s human rights, making a difference in their lives. Join the brave band of Unfearties here.

In collaboration with Imagineers, RGU colleagues partnered with Aberdeen City School Nurses and Aberdeen City Council to undertake workshops facilitated by The Children’s Parliament in Scotland. The aim was to gain the perceptions of children and young people to decide what content to include in MSc Advancing Nursing Practice, the module I coordinate at RGU and co-produce meaningful educational resources.

Results demonstrated that, in a supported environment, children and young people ably negotiated relationships with higher education & NHS professionals on an equal basis, building connections & trust. Acting upon the workshop's findings, we produced and incorporated a child-led teaching video into the delivery of RGU online teaching and published an article outlining the process so the model could be applied to future practice contributing to progressing the Rights Of the Child.

A child rights-based participative approach to gathering their views of what higher education for school nurses should include was valuable. Children and young people have clear opinions and views when included & consulted in an age-appropriate way. They have rights and responsibilities that lecturers across all schools can support by ensuring that they are actively listened to regarding aspects of life that affect them.

If this information has enthused you to become a children’s rights defender and contribute to the Scottish Government action plan, here are some questions to ask yourself when developing and embedding a rights-based approach into your own module, regardless of the subject:

- Have children and young people been involved in the development, design, and delivery of the teaching materials?  

- Will this raise awareness of the UNCRC and Rights of the Child for students?  

- Am I linking the dynamic syllabus and MAG (Module Assessment Guidelines) explicitly to the UNCRC?  

- Can students access information on the UNCRC and a CRB approach to practice?  

- What examples of best practice can I develop, share/include to encourage students to contribute meaningfully to a CRBA when they are qualified in their profession?  

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