Children’s Rights and Wellbeing
Question 25 – Are there any aspects of a child’s rights or wellbeing that you think might be affected either positively or negatively by the proposals covered in this consultation?
30 respondents provided comments on aspects of a child’s rights or wellbeing that might be affected, either positively or negatively, by the proposals covered in this consultation.
A small number of respondents offered no specific comments but expressed that they felt there was no visible impact on children’s rights or wellbeing and that indeed the new Regulations should have a positive impact on children by ensuring a new, more consistent and potentially higher standard is expected.
All other respondents highlighted aspects of the Regulations where they felt some consideration was required. The most commonly raised themes were:
Alignment with legislation and national strategy
A number of respondents from equality or disabilities, local authority and youth services confirmed the need to ensure that there was clear adherence to both law and national directives and these could be clearly illustrated within any new Regulations.
The UN Convention of Human Rights requires to be recognised and sets out that the best interests of young people must be prioritised in all developments and actions that affect them (Article 3), and that they have the right to express their views and have these considered (Article 12) regardless of their gender identity. Being bullied or unable to be yourself can have a serious impact on a young person’s mental and physical wellbeing and their future aspirations. There was also a view that Article 31 of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child could be negatively impacted upon. (Article 31 details the right for children and young people to have fun in the way that they want to, and have the right to rest). It was felt important to note that natural play and non-formal learning spaces should be for children of all ages up to 18 years and that it was important to consider that the needs of older children will be different to those in the nursery and primary stages.
The Schools (Consultation) (Scotland) Act 2010 contains a duty to consult pupils where there is a proposal to establish a new school. Consulting pupils to gain their views as to design plans and new facilities would represent good practice and positively impact on children’s rights and wellbeing.
It was also recognised that within all Regulations on school premises or within early years settings, that account must be taken of the overall needs of children and young people and that the Getting It Right for Every Child ( GIRFEC) framework could be adapted to support this.
Observations made by inspection, regulatory and advocacy respondents raised a number of considerations. An intention within the consultation document is to remove all references to early learning provisions as this is now regulated through the Care Inspectorate and current guidance regarding space standards are outlined in design guidance ‘Space to Grow’. It was agreed this development would reduce duplication and the current regulatory burden, but also noted that the Space to Grow guidance itself is being reviewed to reflect best practice and align with the Health and Social Care Standards (Particularly sections 5.1, 5.19 and 5.20). This will create a single point of reference for the Regulation of early learning and childcare services and address the needs of 2 and 3 year olds.
A further issue raised was the reference within several of the Regulations to joint primary and secondary accommodation. It was observed that in many of the new campus style schools, facilities such as learning and childcare provision, gymnasiums or playing fields are likely to be shared by the early learning or childcare provision. For this reason, it may also be pertinent to state the need for those designing and building school premises overall to take into account the Space to Grow recommendations.
Concern was expressed that with the movement of some Regulations into non-statutory guidance there is the potential for negative impact, particularly regarding the reduction in some facilities. Unless sufficient space exists per child and there is adequate and prescribed noise proofing in class rooms, there could be a significant and detrimental impact on children. Area metrics should not become so restrictive that they have a negative impact on education provision and that diminishing space requirements do not affect the successful integration of disabled pupils. The rights of children and young people to high quality educational experiences could equally be impeded if they are in ‘unsafe’ environments that are potentially too hot or too cold.
Following a similar principle to the points raised regarding indoor space, land and greenspace respondents in particular reaffirmed the value and appropriateness of outdoor play. An overarching comment was that under the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (Article 31) a child has the right to leisure, play and participation in cultural and artistic activities. It was considered essential that all of these aspects were represented within the Regulations. An example of this was that if the areas required for play immediately adjacent to the school were not protected by legislation under Regulation 7 or 20, then this will in all likelihood have a negative effect on both children’s rights and wellbeing. There was felt to be a real and positive opportunity to improve opportunities for a child’s right to play and rest and use natural play spaces for quiet reflection. To achieve this, it was considered essential to address these needs separately from sports pitches and where children can participate in a variety of play styles.
A clear link was made between physical activity and play and its association with obesity, with an estimated 17% of Scotland’s 2-15-year olds classified as such in 2014 (Active Kids Scotland, 2014). The incidence of obesity was also known to be raised in socio-economically deprived areas. Schools have an important role in meeting the 60 minute recommended moderate physical activity per day and to develop habits that will last a lifetime and will benefit children in the long term.
The importance of providing appropriate toilet, washing and changing facilities was frequently cited, and the potential impact inappropriate facilities could have on children’s rights. Most comments were made by individual respondents and did not support the introduction of gender neutral facilities. One respondent felt that a child’s right to privacy, dignity and safety were under threat from the disaggregation of sex specific spaces such as toilets. It was also noted that many children have issues using toilets in school due to embarrassment, at times preventing them from using them at all. The impact of ‘forcing’ them to share these facilities with people of the opposite sex, but who identify as the same sex is considerable and will negatively impact the rights of all. A further respondent expressed their genuine concern that all toilets cannot be gender neutral due to the vulnerability of young female students.
Kitchen and dining facilities
A comment from a food and catering respondent expressed a concern that if the Regulations on food and kitchens were removed and no equivalent provision put in place, then there would be no requirement on local authorities to provide adequate dining space. Were this to be the case, there was a fear that they would continue to see children being rushed through their lunch so two sittings can be squeezed in to inadequate provision.
A final comment was made by an individual respondent that there was a lack of mention of other issues of importance within the consulation, for example the inappropriate association between alcohol and school premises that can be made through increasing community use. There was a belief that at times schools were used for social functions where alcohol was available and as such it should be made explicit in the Regulations that this was unacceptable.