Children's Rights in Practice


Edited by: Phil Jones & Gary Walker

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    With Love to Jonathan Glover


    To Mum and Dad, who taught me rights from wrong



    Children's Rights in Practice is a highly accessible text, which will be useful for students on a range of courses and for professionals where the focus is on working with children and young people. The book's strength lies in examining children's rights from a range of professional perspectives and across a wide age-span. The review activities at the end of each chapter are excellent and encourage the reader to reflect in detail on their practice in the light of some of the ideas introduced – the activities will be valuable for students and professionals alike.’

    Deborah Albon is a Senior Lecturer in Early Childhood Studies at London Metropolitan University

    ‘This is a very informative book that gives a realistic and thought-provoking insight into legislation and its interpretation in practice. The importance of the child at the centre of policy design comes through loud and clear, and the writers include examples of children from a broad range of perspectives and countries.’

    Denise Chadwick, Senior Lecturer in Early Years, University of Huddersfield

    About the Editors and Contributors

    The Editors
    Phil Jones

    Dr Phil Jones, Director of Research and Reader, Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law, Leeds University, has researched areas relating to children and young people, inclusion, the arts and therapy for a number of years. His books have been translated into Chinese, Korean and Greek, and include Rethinking Childhood (2009, Continuum), The Arts Therapies (2005, Routledge) and Drama as Therapy (2008, Routledge); edited books include Childhood: Services and Provision for Children (with Moss, Tomlinson and Welch, 2007, Pearson). He is also Series Editor of Continuum's ‘New Childhoods’, a research-driven initiative looking at different aspects of children's lives.

    Gary Walker

    Gary Walker is a Principal Lecturer in Childhood and Early Years at Leeds Metropolitan University. He has worked in a variety of social care settings with and for children and families for over twenty years. This includes day and residential settings, and as a child protection social worker. He has been child protection education coordinator and children in care education coordinator for a large education authority. He has extensive experience of teaching and training adults in social care issues. Specialist interest areas remain child development, child protection and social work, and children in care. Publications include Working Together for Children (2008, Continuum), as well as chapters for edited volumes covering safeguarding and looked-after children.

    The Contributors
    Alison Bennett

    Alison Bennett joined the Social Work team in the Faculty of Health at Leeds Metropolitan University in 2003. Prior to this, she worked in children and family social work in the statutory and voluntary sector, mainly in Yorkshire. She has responsibility for teaching Children and Family Social Work and has specific interests in participation, child protection and domestic violence.

    Caroline Bligh

    Caroline was a state registered nurse prior to starting her teaching career at a multilingual school in south-east London. Having taught throughout the key stages in primary schools for several years, she developed an active interest in bilingualism in the early years. Following completion of her Masters in Education (Bilingualism in Education) at the University of Birmingham, she began teaching as an associate lecturer for the Open University on their professional early years courses, and in 2007 started teaching at Leeds Metropolitan University where she is now a Senior Lecturer teaching across Early Childhood and Primary Education. Caroline is in her final year of doctoral study with the Open University, where she is focusing her current research on an ethnographic study into the ‘silent period’ in a young bilingual learner from a sociocultural perspective. She presented a paper on her research at the Ethnography and Education conference at St Hilda's College, University of Oxford, in 2009, and at New College, Oxford, in September 2010.

    Avril Brock

    Dr Avril Brock is a Principal Lecturer in the Carnegie Faculty of Sport and Education at Leeds Metropolitan University. She lectures in Childhood and Early Years Education and is the Award Leader for the MA Childhood Studies and MA Early Years. Before moving into higher education, Avril was a Deputy Head, Primary and Early Years teacher. She has edited and written several books on bilingualism, early language development and play, including Communication, Language and Literacy from Birth to Five (with Rankin, 2008, Sage) and Perspectives on Play (with Dodds, Jarvis and Olusoga (eds), 2008, Pearson).

    Jean Conteh

    Dr Jean Conteh, Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law, Leeds University, worked as a primary teacher and teacher educator in different countries for many years, including Sierra Leone, Ghana, Nigeria, Pakistan, Bulgaria and Poland, and has spent almost 20 years as a teacher and then a language tutor on PGCE Primary, BA QTS and MA courses in West Yorkshire. She has published several books, chapters and articles including Multilingual Learning Stories in Britain (with Martin and Robertson (eds), 2007, Trentham), Promoting Learning for Bilingual Pupils 3–11 (ed., 2006, Sage) and On Writing Educational Ethnographies (with Gregory, Kearney and Mor-Sommerfeld, 2005, Trentham).

    Ruth Cross

    Ruth Cross is a Senior Lecturer in Health Promotion – Public Health at Leeds Metropolitan University. She is a nurse by profession with ten years nursing experience in acute and emergency medicine and HIV/AIDS. She has a BSc in Psychology, an MSc in Health Education and Health Promotion and a Post-Graduate Certificate in Higher Education. In addition to teaching on the UK MSc Public Health – Health Promotion course and transnational MSc courses in the Gambia and Zambia, she teaches on a range of undergraduate and postgraduate allied health professional and health-related courses, including Nursing. Ruth is an active member of the Centre for Health Promotion Research, her recent research projects including attitudes to smoking in public places, evaluation of Sure Start programmes and parent/child interaction around road safety.

    Diane Lowcock

    Diane is a Senior Lecturer in Public Health – Health Promotion and has taught young people's health promotion for several years. In her previous role as a public health specialist she worked in the field of sexual health promotion. The work involved training practitioners to facilitate sexual health advice and education and encouraging children and young people to participate in decision-making processes about their health. Diane has considerable experience working alongside young people, teachers, healthcare practitioners and parents to promote sexual health.

    Daniel Marshall

    Daniel Marshall is a Doctoral Research Student at the Institute of Criminology, University of Cambridge. His thesis focuses on implementation issues of Criminal Justice Intervention Programmes with young people and, the experiences of those young people; he has also worked on the Criminology, Law and Sociology courses at Leeds Metropolitan University and University of York. Daniel graduated from the University of Teesside in 2006 with a BSc in Criminology and Psychology. In addition, he received the Dick Richardson Memorial Award for best student dissertation. Daniel spent the following year studying for an MA in Criminological Research at the University of Leeds. His dissertation focused on The Changing Characteristics of First Time Entrants to the Youth Justice System between 2002/03 and 2006/07, working with Leeds Youth Offending Service. Daniel has also spent five years working as a Special Constable with Durham Constabulary.

    Carol Potter

    Carol Potter is Senior Lecturer in Childhood and Early Years at Leeds Metropolitan University. She has worked with disabled children in both residential and educational settings for a number of years, teaching children with autism and learning disabilities over a seven-year period. She has taught several courses relating to disability in higher education, and has conducted funded research in the area of communication enabling environments for children with severe autism and little or no speech. Publications include: Enabling Communication in Children with Autism (with Whittaker, 2001, Jessica Kingsley).

    Tracey Race

    Tracey Race joined the Social Work team in the Faculty of Health at Leeds Metropolitan University in 2004. Prior to that, she spent nearly 20 years working in various social work posts in the Yorkshire region, mainly working with children and families. This included working for Leeds Social Services and, within the voluntary sector, for Family Services Units, Barnardo's and the NSPCC. She has particular interests in child protection, partnership working and children's rights, and has published work on the subjects of family support and participation. She is involved in a research project with the NSPCC exploring the views of parents and carers who have had contact with child protection agencies. Tracey is currently the Course Leader for the MA in Social Work, and her teaching focuses on work with children, young people and families.

    Alan Smith

    Alan Smith is a Principal Lecturer and Head of Youth Work and Community Development at Leeds Metropolitan University. As a qualified Youth and Community Worker, Alan had many years experience working with young offenders, and for the last 16 years he has been teaching and managing youth and community work courses in London, Lancaster and Leeds. Alan has played a key role in the professional association for lecturers in youth and community work as a member of the DfES Transforming Youth Work National Advisory Group, The LLUK Occupational Standards Reference Group, The NYA Workforce Development Group and the HEA Integrated Children's Services in Higher Education Project. Alan was awarded a Teaching Fellowship in 2007 for his work around Inter-Professional Education and Every Child Matters; his research and publications have focused on Connexions and the Casework Relationship, Quality and Standards in Youth Work, and Inter-Professional Education and Every Child Matters.

    Jon Tan

    Dr Jon Tan is a Senior Lecturer and Research Coordinator in the field of Education at Leeds Metropolitan University. Graduating from the University of York with a DPhil in Social Policy, his work draws from a range of disciplines including social welfare, education and critical social theory. His current research in the area of professional learning and critical reflective pedagogies interconnects work with both practitioners in urban educational contexts and with undergraduate and postgraduate students of teacher education. In recent years, in collaboration with co-author Christine Allan, he has conducted research focusing on student teachers’ experiences of school practice placements in international settings.

    Terry Thomas

    Terry Thomas is Professor of Criminal Justice Studies, School of Social Sciences, Leeds Metropolitan University. A former local authority social worker and team leader, he is currently engaged in research in the areas of youth offending, anti-social behaviour and sexual offending. He is author of the books The Police and Social Workers (1994, Arena), Privacy and SocialServices (1995, Arena), Sex Crime: Sex Offending and Society (2005, Willan) and Criminal Records: A Database for the Criminal Justice System and Beyond (2007, Palgrave Macmillan). He is also a regular contributor to the journals Childright and Youth and Policy.

    Chris Whittaker

    Chris Whittaker is currently Honorary Research Fellow at Manchester Metropolitan University and teaches on the Open University Master's in Education. He has been involved in the education of children with complex learning disabilities, including autism, as a teacher, lecturer and researcher for forty years. He led a full-time teacher training course in the area of Special Education, and is a former Vice President of the Down's Syndrome Association. He has undertaken wide-ranging research in the field of disability, specialising in the needs of non-verbal children with complex learning disabilities. Publications include Enabling Communication in Children with Autism (with Potter, 2001, Jessica Kingsley).

    Mike Wragg

    Prior to being appointed Senior Lecturer in Playwork at Leeds Metropolitan University, Mike Wragg held the post of head of play services for Stoke-on-Trent City Council. Within this role, and previously that of play development officer with Bradford Metropolitan District Council, Mike was involved in the development and implementation of play policy and strategy at a local and national level. Mike sits on a number of playwork committees and is a regular contributor to the national and international playwork conference scene. He has authored several articles and chapters, most recently in the book Foundations of Playwork (with Brown and Taylor, 2008, Open University Press) and the International Encyclopaedia of Play in Today's Society (2009, Sage).


    Children's Rights in Practice aims to provide the reader with insights into the interactions between broad perspectives, such as the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), and children's lives as experienced in different areas of services and provision. The first part of the book offers an introduction to relevant conventions and legislation, creating directions for the reader to follow into the chapters in Part 2. It offers insight into the practical implications of child rights as well as critiques and debates. The second part addresses specific areas of practice. We have aimed to cover a broad range of services, from early years to youth work, from health to youth justice. We invited contributors to give a critical account, and an analysis, which would combine general perspectives with particular issues which highlighted or exemplified an aspect of rights in relation to their area. All chapters contain activities to invite the reader to reflect on the implications of the content for practice.

    Each chapter contains references to guide readers across the book, and Part 3 consists of a substantial development of this idea – taking key themes from across the book and offering structured activities to help the reader develop their understanding and awareness of the interrelationship between chapters, disciplines and services. The UNCRC sees childhood as the period up to the age of 17. This book acknowledges this, but also reflects the authors’ uses of the term child or young person as referring to this period: hence both terms are used, depending on individual author's usage.

    PhilJones, Faculty of Education, Social Sciences and Law, Leeds University
    GaryWalker, Carnegie Faculty, Leeds Metropolitan University
  • Contextual Glossary

    The glossary below cites examples of where key terms feature in the book. It is designed to help the reader place terms that are used throughout the book in a context that will help not only in understanding the meaning of the term, but in giving a sense of some of the issues which are contained within this book's treatment of the term.

    • Best interests of the child

      The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child makes clear that ‘[t]he best interests of children must be the primary concern in making decisions that may affect them. All adults should do what is best for children’ (UNCRC, 1989; Article 3). (Chapter 9, page 110; see also pages 37–9.)

    • Caretaker and liberationist

      The former takes the view that, due to their developmental immaturity, children should only be afforded rights of protection and provision but not participation; adults should make decisions on their behalf. Liberationists do not believe that this argument is strong enough to deny children participatory and liberty rights, and argue that children should be allowed and encouraged to exercise every possible right as early as possible (Chapter 3, page 34; see also page 121.)

    • Child

      The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the United Nations in 1989. Child, within the UNCRC, is defined as an individual aged 17 or under. (Chapter 1, page 5; see also pages 33–4.)

    • Childhood as a construction

      Moss and Petrie (2002) have summarised this approach as arguing that, though childhood is a biological fact, the way it is understood and lived varies considerably. (Chapter 1, page 12; see also page 73.)

    • Empowerment

      For the purposes of this discussion, empowerment is viewed as being centrally concerned with ideas or beliefs about control or ‘being in control’ … To be empowered is to be able to exercise power from within. (Chapter 11, page 141; see also pages 180–1.)

    • European Convention on Human Rights

      The European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and the UK's Human Rights Act (HRA) 1998, which commit all public organisations to follow the rights in the ECHR. These include early years provision, play work, schools, children's services, health, youth and social services, the police and youth courts. (Chapter 1, page 14; see also page 196.)

    • Family

      The family is meant to be supporting the child as an individual while ensuring they develop positive relationships as part of the family and as part of society. However, each family will have a set of beliefs and values that influence their expectations of the child and their relationships. These may not be in keeping with either the principles of the UNCRC or with the expectations of state policies. (Chapter 1, page 8; see also pages 37–9.)

    • Multi-agency

      The re-emphasis of multi-professional approaches that involve partnership with parents and their communities has further interwoven institutional, parental and professional responsibilities to children and young people. Such a connection between professionals and parents is clear within the kinds of approaches developed. (Chapter 9, page 112; see also page 58.)

    • Non-discrimination

      Non-discrimination is reflected in Articles such as Article 2 which states that signatories ‘shall respect and ensure the rights set forth in the present Convention to each child within their jurisdiction without discrimination of any kind, irrespective of the child's or his or her parent's or legal guardian's race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national, ethnic or social origin, property, disability, birth or other status’ (Unicef, 2009: 9). (Chapter 1, page 6; see also page 116.)

    • Participation

      The concept of participation is central to any discussion about children and young people's rights (Participation Works, at: When examining definitions of participation two main themes are evident: firstly ‘being present and taking part’; and secondly recognising that when young people participate what they say and do should be listened to and acted upon. (Chapter 11, page 142; see also pages 43–56.)

    • Paternalism

      The political and philosophical concept of paternalism is generally understood to reflect the patriarchal family system whereby the dominant figurehead, or father, makes decisions on behalf of his subordinates – his wife and children. To advocates of paternalism the wise and powerful figurehead acts benevolently towards the poor and disempowered. To its libertarian detractors this practice serves only to further marginalise and oppress the disempowered. (Chapter 6, page 74; see also page 150.)

    • Poverty

      Even under the definition of poverty designed to reduce the number of children reflected therein (which excludes housing costs), at least 20 per cent of children live in poverty in England (Child Poverty Action Group, 2008) … What is apparent, however, is that any notion of child rights which ignores the plight of, or normalises the everyday damaging experience of, large numbers of children living in long-term poverty is deeply flawed both morally and in practical terms. (Chapter 5, page 64; see also pages 19, 35–7.)

    • Protection

      The national guidance on safeguarding children emphasises the need to place ‘child protection’ within a broad approach to raising children in order that they meet the prescribed Every Child Matters outcomes. It states that … ‘If they are denied the opportunity and support they need to achieve these outcomes, children are at increased risk not only of an impoverished childhood, but also of disadvantage and social exclusion in adulthood. Abuse and neglect pose particular problems’ (DCSF, 2010: 29). What is striking about this is that there is no mention of children's rights. (Chapter 5, page 65; see also pages 58, 163–9.)

    • Safeguarding

      The term safeguarding first began to emerge in around 2003 … One key aspect of this was a new emphasis on the idea of prevention: rather than waiting for a family crisis to occur and responding only to acute incidents of serious harm, professionals were now expected to step in early in the affairs of families to prevent any crisis from happening in the first place. (Chapter 5, pages 57–8; see also pages 60–3, 196.)

    • Self-advocacy

      Self-advocacy, where disabled people run organisations and control research and social policy agendas is a major tenet of social model theory and practice (Chapter 7, page 84; see also page 23.)

    • Social exclusion

      Walker and Walker provide a definition of social exclusion which distinguishes it from poverty. According to them, social exclusion is a ‘dynamic process of being shut out, fully or partially, from any of the social, economic, political or cultural systems which determine the social integration of a person in society’ (Walker and Walker, 1997, quoted in Byrne, 2005: 8). (Chapter 3, pages 35–6; see also page 147.)

    • Social justice

      Miller argues that social justice involves a commitment to ensuring ‘each person gets a fair share of the benefits, and carries a fair share of the responsibilities, of living together in a community’ (2005: 3). (Chapter 3, page 33; see also page 52).

    • United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child

      The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child was adopted by the United Nations in 1989 … The rights guaranteed by the Convention are afforded to all children without exception. The UNCRC is defined as an agreement between countries and consists of a number of articles. Specific governments need to ratify such a convention. This means that they agree to obey the articles set out in that convention. (Chapter 1, page 5; see also pages 17–31.)

    • Youth

      The defined age range of ‘youth’ served varies between different countries. The approach of Richmond, as a representative example (see below) of the UK framework, states that its services are for those between the ages of 11 and 25, with a ‘priority age range of 13–19’. (Chapter 13, page 176; see also page 189.)


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