Peebles primary gets UNICEF seal of approval

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A PEEBLES school has achieved a coveted accreditation from the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF), writes Mark Entwistle.

Priorsford Primary obtained the status of level one in UNICEF’s Rights Respecting School (RRS) programme.

The Rights Respecting Schools Award (RRSA) recognises achievement in putting the United Nations convention on the rights of the child at the heart of a school’s planning, policies, practice and ethos.

A rights-respecting school not only teaches about youngsters’ rights, but also models rights and respect in all its relationships – between teachers, adults and pupils..

Priorsford depute head teacher Keith Russell said the school has been working on developing Priorsford as a Rights Respecting School for the past year.

“Following our assessment in early June, the assessors were pleased to say that we more than achieved RRSA Level 1 status,” he explained this week. “I believe that we are the first Borders school to do so and we are all very proud of our achievement. As well as providing a clear and universally accepted set of values, the award is a great learning tool.”

To be accredited as rights-respecting, a school must show evidence that it has reached all four of the standards: rights-respecting values underpinning leadership and management; the whole school community learning about the convention; a rights-respecting ethos; children empowered to become active citizens and learners.

The school rules were also agreed with the students, staff and parents, leading to the production of a school charter.

The feedback from the assessors was that the school had a positive ethos where pupils and adults treated each other with respect. Staff, pupils and parents felt valued and were listened to. The assessors also recognised that although, as with all schools, there can still be inappropriate behaviour, it is the language used with the children to solve these issues that shows the school respects youngsters’ rights.

Mr Russell added: “We have carried out a lot of work teaching the children about their rights. Children’s rights ensure that children receive their needs to survive and function in society.

“We make a very clear distinction between ‘needs’ and ‘wants’. Whilst it is a child’s right to be able to communicate freely, we have an obligation to listen to them and give the children a right to speak.

“However, the right to communicate does not entitle them to an iPhone – this is a want.”

Councillor Sandy Aitchison, Scottish Borders Council’s executive member for education, said: “Priorsford is to be commended on its UNICEF award and its hard work over the past year to achieve it through the development of inclusive rights and responsibilities for every child in the school.

“The rights respecting elements of the UNICEF award tie directly into Curriculum for Excellence, enabling and supporting our Borders children to become good citizens now and in the future.”