Children's Parliament

Children’s Parliament is Scotland’s Centre for Excellence for Children’s Rights and Participation. We give children the opportunity to voice their ideas, thoughts and feelings so that their concerns and opinions can be listened to and included in our social and political landscape.
We seek to increase awareness, knowledge and understanding of children’s rights as outlined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) and other national policy and legislative drivers, such as Getting It Right for Every Child (GIRFEC), Curriculum for Excellence and the Children and Young People Act (Scotland) 2014.

Rights-based approach

Children’s Parliament aims to improve outcomes for children across Scotland using a rights-based approach. We do this in two ways.
Firstly, we work directly with children in projects, consultations and programmes which allow them to develop the skills, knowledge, behaviours and values necessary to engage in civic life. We focus on the development of positive, respectful relationships and safe, supportive environments where all children can flourish.
Secondly, we work with adults – parents and carers, government officials, teachers and other professionals – to raise awareness of children’s rights and to equip them with the knowledge and skills to replicate a rights-based approach in their own settings.

Working with Universities

Over the past few years, Children’s Parliament has been facilitating sessions for primary and secondary teaching courses at universities across Scotland, engaging with trainee teachers around children’s rights and participation. To date, we have delivered sessions at:
  • the University of Edinburgh
  • the University of Strathclyde
  • the University of Glasgow
  • the University of Aberdeen
This is an opportunity for trainee teachers to hear directly from children who have participated in Children’s Parliament (CP) projects, consultations or programmes about their views and experiences of learning and education as well as their work with Children’s Parliament.
Two CP projects and consultations focus specifically on education:
  • Leaders of Learning - a consultation for Scottish Government about children’s experiences of learning, both in and out of school, and how they can be included in the planning and delivery of learning as outlined by Curriculum for Excellence
  • Moving On Up - a project with Renfrewshire Council looking at the transition between primary and secondary school.

‘Big Book of Promises’

At Children’s Parliament, we discuss children’s rights as being the UK and Scottish Governments’ commitment to children as a ‘Big Book of Promises’ – these promises make sure children are safe, healthy and happy, and that they have a say.

The responsibility for ensuring that children have their rights fulfilled lies with adults. We do not connect rights with responsibilities, which we find is fairly common practice in Scotland, and we believe it is essential that these are explained as separate entities to children.

When children are taught that rights and responsibilities are linked, they can be led into thinking that rights are conditional on ‘being responsible’. When this is combined with adults’ fear that children’s rights mean they have less authority over children and a belief that children’s rights can go ‘too far’, it is understandable that many teachers use the package of rights and responsibilities as a form of behaviour management.

It is critical that children understand that the rights that help them to be safe, healthy, happy and have a say are unconditional and have no connection to their ability (or not) to be responsible.

Children, of course, share the social responsibilities of all in society and children who participate in Children’s Parliament are expected to engage respectfully and within acceptable social parameters.

Children who lack the ability to fulfil these social responsibilities, however, are not then denied their rights to be safe, healthy, happy and to have a say.

Children do not become responsible citizens because we tell them they have responsibilities; they become responsible citizens through experiencing a rights-based approach and understanding how this connects to other areas of their lives.

At the end of each session at the universities, children outline their ‘Top Tips’ for future teachers.

The Top Tips from children usually include the following:

  • Listen to your pupils and try to understand where they are coming from
  • Try teaching in different ways and use technology in your lessons
  • Get to know your pupils
  • Let us have an opinion – and don’t judge us or punish us if we say something you don’t like
  • Always think on the positive side of us
  • Let us be children
  • Be patient – strict but not too strict
  • Be my equal

View a short film of a Children’s Parliament session at the University of Edinburgh, Moray House School of Education.

Our sessions have been well received by students, with many saying how inspiring it was to hear directly from children because of how open they were about what helped and hindered them in regards to their learning.

One student said:

“This was quite possibly the most inspirational lecture we have been lucky enough to receive at university. Being offered such positivity, confidence and honest advice from the children was a reminder of why I am here and what I am striving towards as a developing teacher. It made things very real and refreshing. Thank you.”

Through the unique combination of a rights-based approach and the creative arts, Children’s Parliament allows adults to hear directly from children in an engaging and impactful way. Children’s Parliament believes that children are experts in their own lives and that they should be included in any discussion that will impact upon them.

It is essential that their voices are heard in regard to life at home, at school, in the community and the wider world. By gaining a clearer understanding of children’s experiences and ideas, we (as policy makers, service managers and practitioners) will experience better relationships with the children with whom we work and be better informed when making decisions.

For more about the work of Children’s Parliament, visit our website: