In my end of term message, just before the holiday, I mentioned we were awaiting the outcome of our assessment visit for Gold Rights Respecting Schools status that took place in mid-March.
I am delighted to let you know we have now received the assessors’ report and the decision of the Accreditation and Standards Committee. They agree that sufficient evidence was provided in the report to award Firrhill High School with UNICEF UK’s Rights Respecting School Award at Gold: Rights Respecting.
We are now officially a Gold: Rights Respecting School.
This is a tremendous achievement. According to the RRS website (https://www.unicef.org.uk/rights-respecting-schools/the-rrsa/awarded-schools/gold-schools/) there are currently only 12 secondary schools with Gold RRS status in the whole of Scotland and just 34 in the whole of the UK.
In the very detailed report that we receive I think the following excerpts are particularly noteworthy:
“It was evident that children’s rights are embedded across the school and underpin every facet of school life. Particular strengths of the school include:
• Extensive opportunities for pupil participation across all stages in a variety of ways.
• A clear strategic approach by SMT and staff to embed a rights-based approach across learning and the life and ethos within school to ensure its sustainability.”
“Pupils acknowledged the support they get from staff, expressing confidence to share their ideas and be respected as individuals.”
“Relationships observed during the visit between pupils and staff and between pupils were mutually respectful. The school data collated from questionnaires shows an upward trend on each point around relationships, showing improvements in the feelings of respect and value from pupils to staff and vice versa since the school achieved Silver accreditation. This is almost entirely attributed to the commitment of the whole school community in embracing a rights respecting approach so wholeheartedly. One pupil said, “The staff are friendly, understanding and show they enjoy their subjects and listen to you.” When talking about behaviour, a pupil commented, “We’ve talked about dignity and how this also links to our mental health”.”
“Children and young people spoken with agreed that they feel safe and protected in the school most of the time. This was attributed by pupils to staff having an “open door” policy, posters with information and “trusted guidance teachers” if they didn’t want to speak to friends first. All pupils agreed that they had an adult they could speak to in school for support if needed. They felt confident that their “concerns or anxieties” would be taken seriously and acted upon and some recognised that this was a positive shift over time since working with RRSA.”
“It was evident that most young people spoken with feel that knowing about their rights and being part of a school community that actively promotes them, has made them feel valued, empowered and proud to be in Firrhill High School.”
Attaining Gold status has been the result of a school-wide effort. The work of a very large number of staff is recognised not just in the comments of the assessors but also in the quoted statements from pupils who clearly recognise the efforts that have been made to incorporate a positive approach to children’s rights in the work of the school from whole-school policies to lesson content and teacher-pupil relationships. Everyone should feel suitably proud of the outcome that, together, we have achieved.
The work of the many pupils involved in the wide range of groups that have contributed to attaining Gold status should be recognised too. It is, after all, the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child that we are working to and the involvement of young people in delivering those rights, in educating other young people (and the grown-ups too) about them and their incredibly positive appraisals of the efforts of staff and the school, as an institution, have been integral to securing Gold status.
None of this would have been possible without the leadership and coordination work done by the RRS Group so a particular thanks to Mrs Barnes, Ms Chevrou, Ms Davidson, Ms Lynas, Mr McAlpine, Mr McCartney, Ms Morrant, Mr Pitman, Ms Sharp, Ms Thayne and Mr Walkinshaw. Especially to those who have been members of the RRS group since the very first meeting way back in August 2016.
Finally, I want to thank Mrs Kerr who has so ably led not just the RRS groups, staff and pupils, but also produced and collated the massive amount of very comprehensive and impressive evidence that has made it so straightforward for our assessors to pass the school with flying colours. It is clear to me that without Mrs Kerr’s dedication and leadership of the process we would not be a Gold status school.
For those of you who would like to read the full assessors report you can find it here: