The Rights of the Child and What This Means for Teachers

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The Rights of the Child and What This Means for Teachers

Published September 2022

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Author: Roseanna Bourke and John O’Neill

Publisher: NZCER

Date: 2022

Geographic Coverage: New Zealand

Type of Resource: Academic Journal

Sector/setting: Academic

Vulnerable groups: Children

Developed with children and young people? No

Type of participation: Research

Availability: Open Access

Keywords: Children’s Rights; Participation; UNCRC, Student Voice


Teachers invariably want to do right by children in their classrooms. Increasingly, this means listening to children and acting on their views. Listening to “student voice” and incorporating children’s views about education in classroom and school decision making is important if we want to encourage authentic forms of belonging, wellbeing, learning, and achievement that really matter to children (Bourke & O’Neill, 2022; Brasof, 2015). In Aotearoa, it is becoming more commonplace to acknowledge that families and whānau are also experts in the lives of their children, “valuing the linguistically and culturally diverse literacies children carry from their whānau, homes, and communities” (Jacobs et al., 2021, p. 265). Listening to children and acting on their views is both good pedagogical practice and affords children their basic right to be heard. An often-used phrase in research on childhood today is that “children are experts in their own lives”, which must surely give considerable pause for thought to teachers, leaders, and trustees in schools where children by convention have a very limited say in determining the conditions of their learning. Yet, children typically have their own responses to the issues that enthuse or concern them, or the actions or relations that make their learning easy or difficult. We have both learnt important lessons from children in our work as teachers and know that readers will have had similar pivotal or “lightbulb” moments.