Memorandum from Children's Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) (CS 39)

Memorandum from Children's Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) (CS 39)

About CRAE

1. The Children's Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) seeks the full implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child in England.
Our vision is of a society where the human rights of all children are
recognised and realised.

2. CRAE protects the human rights of children by lobbying government and others who hold power, by bringing or supporting test cases and by using national, regional and international human rights
mechanisms. We provide free legal information and advice, raise awareness of
children's human rights, and undertake research about children's access to
their rights. We mobilise others, including children and young people, to take
action to promote and protect children's human rights. Each year we publish a
review of the state of children's rights in England.

Introduction

3. This submission from CRAE[i] highlights significant opportunities and threats to the realisation of children's rights in the provisions of the Children, Schools and Families Bill,
focusing on the following areas:

· Educational guarantees for children and parents

· Home-school agreements for each child

· Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE)

· Sex and Relationships Education (SRE)

· Information sharing for Local Safeguarding Children Boards

· Media reporting of family proceedings

Educational guarantees for children and parents (clauses 1-3)

4. CRAE welcomes the introduction of educational guarantees for children and their parents and hopes that the Government will ensure that sufficient funds are in place to make these guarantees a reality.
In particular we welcome the 'pupil ambition' that all children will go to a
school where they are taught in a way that meets their needs and have the
opportunity to express their views. We will be seeking clarification from the
Government that the duty on the Secretary of State to consult before issuing or
revising a pupil or parent guarantee (clause 2(2)) includes a duty to consult
children. Every child's right to education is reflected in Articles 28 and 29
of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), and in General Comment
No. 1 of the Committee on the Rights of the Child.[ii]
We hope that these and other key human rights provisions will be reflected in
the pupil and parent guarantees.

Home-school agreements for each child (clauses 4-5)

5. Clause 4 includes a duty on the head teacher of a school to ensure that each parent of a registered child is provided with a home-school agreement and a parental declaration. Since these agreements will
include obligations on the child, and children of sufficient understanding will
be able to sign the parental declaration themselves, it is crucial that
children are involved in the drafting and review of their own home-school
agreements.

6. Clause 5 links parental responsibilities under the home-school agreement to parenting contracts and orders under the Anti-social Behaviour Act 2003. CRAE does not believe that it is appropriate or
helpful to criminalise people for non-criminal activity.
Measures to improve school behaviour through family engagement must
focus on genuine support for families and respect for children's human rights
in both policy and practice.

Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education (PSHE) (clauses 10-12)

7. CRAE supports the statutory introduction of "Understanding of physical development, health and well-being" in the primary curriculum and "Personal, Social, Health and Economic Education" in the
secondary curriculum. Article 29 of the UNCRC details a minimum requirement for
education to be broad and holistic, developing both the academic but also social
development of children. Statutory PSHE is a significant step towards meeting
this requirement.

Sex and Relationships Education (SRE) (clauses 13-14)

8. CRAE has been a long-standing advocate for statutory and comprehensive sex and relationships education (SRE) and supports the introduction of a reformed statutory basis for SRE in this Bill (clause
13). Article 24 of the UNCRC gives every child the right to have access to
health education whilst Article 17 guarantees to every child access to
information, particularly that aimed at promoting well-being and physical and
mental health. In 2002 the Committee on the Rights of the Child recommended
that health education should form part of the school curriculum and
specifically stated this should include sex education.[iii]

9. Clause 14 amends exemptions from SRE. Currently a parent may withdraw any child up to the age of 19 from sex and relationships education. There is little accurate information on the number of
children affected by this withdrawal. A small study in 2002 by Ofsted estimated
this to be 4 in every 10,000 school pupils; or approx 3,000 children in England.[iv]
The Government is proposing to lower the age at which parents have the right to
withdraw children from SRE to 15. CRAE sees this as a small step forward.
However, we believe that to meet its human rights obligations the Government
should be more ambitious. The Committee on the Rights of the Child is
unequivocal that all young people should be provided with, and not be denied,
accurate and appropriate information on how to protect their health and on the
development and practice healthy behaviours. This should include information on
safe and respectful social and sexual behaviours.[v]
In the England
submission to the Committee in 2008, over 100 non-governmental organisations
called upon the Government to remove parents' right to withdraw
children from sex education in school.[vi]

10. The European Court of Human Rights ruled on the issue of compulsory sex education in primary and secondary schools in the case of Kjeldsen, Busk Madsen and Pedersen v Denmark [1976][vii].
The case was brought by six parents who claimed that this education was in
breach of Article 2, Protocol 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights
concerning the right of parents to respect for their religious and
philosophical convictions in the education of their children. The parents also
claimed breaches of Articles 14 (discrimination on grounds of religion),
Article 8 (family and private life) and Article 9 (freedom of religion). The
court ruled against them on all counts.

Information sharing for Local Safeguarding Children Boards (clause 28)

11. Clause 28 of the Bill extends the power of Local Safeguarding Children Boards (LSCBs) to require individuals and bodies to supply relevant information to assist the LSCB to perform its functions. In the
drive to protect children through information sharing, it is crucial that
children's rights to privacy and confidentiality are maintained. Indeed, children have stressed that safeguarding their
rights to privacy and confidentiality are critical elements of an effective
child protection system. There are existing concerns regarding the
security, privacy, transparency, accuracy and proportionality of databases such
as ContactPoint, and children themselves have voiced concerns about what
information is held about them, and where it goes.

12. Clause 28 of the Bill is far too broad and potentially would stop children seeking much needed advice, information and assistance from a wide range of organisations in the statutory and voluntary
sector (including advice lines). Organisations like CRAE that engage with
children and young people on an ongoing basis could be required to provide
information to LSCBs that the child or we would consider entirely confidential.

13. We also have concerns regarding how these new provisions will comply with obligations under the Data Protection Act 1998 to collect information for a specified purpose. We would like the Government to
confirm whether any additional arrangements will be put in place to monitor
compliance with both national and international law with regard to the
collection and retention of information about children.

Media reporting of family proceedings (clauses 32-41)

14. CRAE is a member of the Interdisciplinary Alliance for Children and refers Committee members to further briefing material prepared by the Alliance.

15. CRAE supports the principle of reforming the family courts to achieve a more transparent and accountable process. However, we are concerned that the provisions laid out in
Part 2 of the Bill do not take sufficient account of the best interests or
privacy rights of children or their families. Enabling powers in clause 40 will
permit the Lord Chancellor to relax the rules on
reporting "sensitive personal information".[viii]
The effect of this will be that sensitive personal information initially
protected by the Bill may be published following the commencement of this clause
(unless a court specifically imposes restrictions) thus significantly
increasing
the likelihood of children and families being identified in press reporting.

16. CRAE, along with the Interdisciplinary Alliance for Children, feels that these provisions have been adopted without adequate consultation or an assessment of the potential impact on children in terms of
their safety, well-being and privacy. Children themselves have expressed
concern about media attendance in family courts and have indicated this may
limit the information they choose to share. CRAE would like the Government to
clarify what measures it has taken to consider alternative methods of improving
transparency which would not subject already highly vulnerable children to a
range of further risks. We urge MPs to make no further changes to legislation
in the absence of an independent evaluation of the impact of media access to
the courts following the rule change in April 2009.



[i] The Children's Rights Alliance for England (CRAE) is an alliance of 270 organisations. Not all our members necessarily support the contents of this submission.

[ii] UN Committee on the Rights of the Chid (2001) General Comment No. 1: The aims of education, Article 29(1) CRC/GC/2001/1
http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(symbol)/CRC.GC.2001.1.En?OpenDocu...

[iii] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (2002) Concluding
observations: United Kingdom
Of Great Britain And Northern Ireland CRC/C/GBR/CO/4.

[iv] Ofsted (2002) Sex and relationships. A report from the Office of Her Majesty's Chief Inspector of Schools.

[v] UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (2003) General comment No. 4. Adolescent Health and Development in the Context of the
Convention on the Rights of the Child.
CRC/GC/2003/4. http://www.unhchr.ch/tbs/doc.nsf/(symbol)/CRC.GC.2003.4.En?OpenDocu...

[vi] Children's Rights Alliance for England (2008) State of Children's
Rights in England 2008 - Review of UK Government's implementation of
the Convention on the Rights of the Child - 2008

[vii] Application No 5095/71, 5920/72, 5926/72

[viii] The Bill defines "sensitive personal information" in Schedule 3 under four categories: information given by a relevant child; information relating to a medical,
psychological or psychiatric condition; information relating to a medical,
psychological or psychiatric examination; and information relating to health
care, treatment or therapy.

January 2010 pain.

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