“I believe we need to get better at listening and acting on the views, opinions and experiences of children and young people.

 “I want to listen and learn from children and young people so that in my role, I can fulfil my obligation to make Scotland a country where they can understand, enjoy and use their rights every single day of their lives. 

“ My aim is to mainstream the teaching of children’s rights and raise awareness of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) in an engaging and positive way, so it’s seen as a useful tool to be used and embraced, rather than a distant statutory instrument used to chastise governments.

“And it’s your commitment to promoting children’s and young people’s rights, your expertise, the trust and respect built between you and your pupils that’s the key to the success of what I hope is a profound conversation or ‘blether’ with children and young people across Scotland,” he explains.

Tam is currently meeting teachers, directors of education, children’s organisations and children and young people themselves in dozens of schools across Scotland, as part of A Right Blether, his nationwide consultation with children and young people, to introduce the primary and secondary workshop resource packs and encourage schools to get involved.

By July this year, he’ll have visited more than 40 schools in every one of Scotland’s 32 local authorities to get teachers and schools signed up in the programme, which culminates in a national vote in November 2010.

The vote marks the 21st Anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the Commissioner hopes that tens of thousands of school aged children will participate.

They’ll be asked to vote on 20 of the biggest and most challenging issues facing Scotland’s children, to identify the top four which the Commissioner will focus a four-year work plan around.

Although the exact issues are yet to be defined, the Commissioner is working with the Scottish Youth Parliament and the Children’s Parliament to ensure the list of issues that is eventually voted on, is generated by children and young people themselves. At this early stage it is thought that topics such as bullying, feeling safe on the streets, voting age and transport may feature.

My impressions so far are that we are tapping into a very large pool of goodwill and willingness to engage as I go around the local authorities and visit schools,” Tam says.

“On some visits, I’ve met with the school council, or pupil run groups.  In others I’ve met with whole classes of pupils or spoken to school assemblies. 

“When I ask pupils if they know or have heard about the UNCRC– or the Children’s Commissioner – , most often they haven’t but children quickly become interested and many of the questions I’m asked are probing who I am and at what I actually do.

 “I’ve been really touched by the concern and interest shown by children for others, when I ask what they’d do to improve the lives of children and young people, if they had a magic wand.

“They often mention child poverty, children having enough food to eat, homelessness, being safe on the streets and – whenever issues are in the news – children in countries like Haiti or earthquake zones.

“I’m also keen to hear from children and young people about those areas in which Scotland is doing well in creating positive opportunities and high quality of life experiences for children and young people. In many instances this is where we are already fulfilling children’s rights and I want us to celebrate these achievements ,” he explains.

Tam reports that feedback on the workshop resource packs has been very positive and teachers can see the potential for use right across the curriculum. The packs – in two versions for use at primary and secondary level and with accompanying DVD and creative extras- are designed to help deliver aspects of the Curriculum for Excellence (CfE).

A Right Blether has the support of the Scottish Government and Ministers have attended many of the regional launches. Minister for Children and Early Years, Adam Ingram said:

“The Scottish Government is committed to supporting and promoting children’s rights and the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. This is a key strand of our work to improve the lives and life opportunities of all of Scotland’s children and young people.

“That’s why Ministers are delighted to be supporting the Commissioner in his work to raise awareness of children’s rights and his efforts to find out directly from children and young people what they think about the issues and challenges facing them in Scotland today. This ‘blether’ with young people will ensure that their voices are not only heard but that they can contribute towards identifying positive work and finding solutions to problems.”

The consultation has now been completed, for details click here

How A Right Blether works

The programme offers a diverse consultation experience to Scotland’s children and young people. Along the way they’ll be invited to Participate, Meet, Vote, Create and Celebrate.

Participate

The Rights Resource Pack offers five different short workshops and 10 creative extras designed to explore children’s rights – one for primary aged children, one for secondary aged young people. The materials are designed to help deliver the Curriculum for Excellence and also include a DVD to help children and young people to understand more about their rights and get ready to participate in the Scotland-wide vote in November.

Meet

The Commissioner is meeting with thousands of children and young people between now and November 2010, to hear their views and encourage them to participate in the vote.

Vote

Throughout November 2010, children and young people up to the age of 18 or up to 21 if they have ever been looked after or in care will vote on a range of issues, divided into four categories:

Their home

Where they learn

Their neighbourhoods and communities

Scotland – national issues

The Commissioner is looking for organisations, schools, clubs and groups to become an accredited voting centre during November 2010. Children and Young people will also be able to vote online at www.arightblether.co.uk

Create

There are lots of good and exciting things happening in children’s lives across Scotland that are, whether people are aware of it or not, delivering their rights to them and respecting their rights every day.  These are the things that are creating positive opportunities and high quality of life experiences for children and young people. The Commissioner is asking children and young people to identify those successes – examples of “A RIGHT Brilliant Thing” – and asking for their submissions, by letter, by text, by film, through photographs, through a blog, through an artwork or animation, so that these can be celebrated.

Celebrate

The UN Convention on the Rights of the Child ‘comes of age’ in November 2010. The Commissioner’s office will support a series of 21st birthday events for the UNCRC across Scotland to celebrate the hundreds of ways in which children’s rights are being implemented already.