25 SES 14 B, Children's Rights in European Education. Dilemmas, Challenges and Implementation Regarding Roma Children
This paper draws on data from an ESRC funded project entitled Autonomy, Rights and Children with Special Needs: A New Paradigm? (ES/P002641/1). The research uses a mixed methods approach (analysis of administrative data and qualitative work in schools) to explore the implications of the current emphasis on children’s rights in SEN/ASN in relation to the contested notion of autonomy (Freeman, 2007). Conceptually, autonomy has a strong association with personal choice and the freedom to exercise it. The notion of autonomy as a right of the child is based on the precept that children as individuals are capable of making rational independent decisions, as long as inappropriate choices are not made which work against the child’s own interests. There are inherent tensions between recognising a child’s right to autonomy, whilst also taking into account their long-term interests and their evolving capacity (Hollingsworth, 2013). While exploring the way in children’s agency is being realised in the new legislative context, the research will take account of critical perspectives in the sociology of childhood, which point to an undue focus on the way in which children demonstrate agency, at the expense of an examination of the structural and cultural limits on children’s autonomy (Oswell, 2013). Where education is concerned, there is a seemingly universal expert assumption that decisions will be better if informed by children’s wishes and perceptions of their needs. However, from a wider perspective there are ongoing debates, often challenging adults’ assumptions, about the point at which children should be regarded as capable of making independent judgements concerning matters affecting them. This paper examines the contrasting policy contexts in England and Scotland with regard to children with SEN and ASN, including children of travellers. The paper explores the extent to which this group of children are being helped or hindered from exercising their rights of participation and redress in different geographical contexts and school settings. The paper argues that the language of rights is increasingly reflected in policy and professional discourse, but on the ground there has been slow progress towards the realisation of children’s rights of participation and redress. Particular issues arise in determining the balance between the autonomy rights of children, including the right to an inclusive education, with the rights of parents to a private family life free from disproportionate state surveillance.
Freeman, M. (2007). Article 3 the best interests of the child. In A. Allen, J. Van Lanotte, E. Verhellen, & E. Ang (Eds.), A Commentary on the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. Leiden: Martinus Nijhoff Publishers. Hollingsworth, K. (2013). Theorising children’s rights in youth justice: The significance of autonomy and foundational rights. Modern Law Review, 76(6), 1046-1069. Oswell, D. (2013) The Agency of Children: From Family to Global Human Rights Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
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