Scéalta – The Early Childhood Ireland Blog

< Back to Blog

Children’s Rights in Small Places


Tuesday 23 May 2017

Valuing the ECEC professional – Children’s Rights in Small Places

Many ECEC practitioners working in early childhood settings in Ireland will have some awareness of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, ratified by the Government of Ireland in 1992.   If you were to hold a full copy of the UNCRC in your hand, and I would suggest that you do, you may at first, find some of the provisions vague or perhaps too abstract or even irrelevant to early years practice.  You might even think that in a developed, ‘rich’ country, like Ireland, all children’s rights have been guaranteed by the various national laws and policies, which have been passed in recent decades, and so we don’t even need to think about the barriers that might exist in translating these principles into practice.  Or perhaps you think that knowledge of children’s rights and working in an early childhood setting are two sides of the same coin, and that somehow we enact children’s rights daily in our practice through implementing Aistear, without having to think too much about the broader children’s rights framework.  Or maybe you use words like choice or voice or play to describe children’s rights in early years’ settings, without really thinking much further on the kind of knowledge, values and practices you might need to fully enact children’s rights or implement Aistear, in a rights-respecting way.

Children’s rights education, as part of an early childhood practitioners’ formation, asks us to take the time to critically reflect on ourselves, our practices, our policies and our decision-making.  This is a slow process.  Abstract concepts and principles inherent in the children’s rights discourse like dignity, respect, evolving capabilities, participation, best interests, all need time to be ‘unpacked’ and critically evaluated for relevance to the theories that inform our practice, and the practice that informs our theories.  Our own childhoods and experiences in education equally need to be looked at, as we sometimes unconsciously reproduce the approaches of our own teachers from the past. We also need to look at the mentoring we received when we were forming as professionals and the environments that this took place in.  The attitudes and actions (or inactions) of our mentors and other practitioners can be more influential than any theory or law that we may have read, on how we practice.   To ‘really’ know children’s rights, before we can enact them ourselves in our own practice, we have to see and experience an explicit children’s rights based approach in action, and that in itself requires resourced, respected, valued educators working within a broader, competent early years system.

The language of rights, can therefore become a powerful and effective language to use when advocating for young children, enabling ECEC practitioners to confidently articulate the rights of young children, not as favours to ask of the Government, but reminders of the promises the Government has made to young children.  Critical to the realisation of these promises, is the education and training of professionals who relationships with young children ensure that children’s rights are realised in all relational processes, in line with Aistear.

“Help me to learn about my rights…Model fairness, justice and respect when you interact with me.  Involve me in making decisions.  Let me share my views and opinions with you about things that matter to me.  Help me to understand that others may have different views and opinions”.

In spite of inadequate funding to-date for implementing the national curricular and quality frameworks, or for the initial and ongoing education and CPD of ECEC professionals, ECEC practitioners challenge inequality, exclusion, sexism, racism, homophobia, and ablelism, in all their various disguises in the child’s environment on a day to day basis.  They step in when children’s interactions are harmful, respecting the dignity of both the hurt and the hurter.  Through a play-based, unhurried and emergent curriculum, they look and listen as children’s interests emerge.  This ensures not only that children engage in learning that is meaningful, hands-on and intrinsically motivating, but also, when captured and extended by a knowledgeable, sensitive practitioner, it becomes, thorough respectful dialogue, participation in action, a guiding principle of the UNCRC.  ECEC practitioners play a key role in educating parents about children’s rights through learning stories that capture and make visible a child’s decision making and perspective on their learning, play, relationships and environment. The child’s keyworker through their partnership approach with parents, ensures that young children, are nurtured in line with Aistear, ensuring that the child’s rights to health, privacy and family guidance are respected, while adherence to the legislative and regulatory framework ensures the best interests of the child is the paramount consideration of the ECEC practitioner. They are vociferous advocates of the rights of young children with additional needs and children from minority communities and work to connect children and families with the services they need.  


ECEC practitioners therefore, in their everyday practices and pedagogies, not only protect, promote and take action for the rights of the young children they educate and care for, but they also help the Government to fulfil its international legal obligations under the UNCRC.  As ECEC practitioners become more fluent in the language of rights, they can utilise the UNCRC, to not only to continue to advocate for the rights of the children that they educate and care for, but also to emphasise to the Government their identity as valuable, credible and autonomous professional ECEC practitioners and children’s rights educators worthy of recognition and respect for the work that they do.

Where after all do human rights begin? In small places, close to home – so close and so small, that they cannot be seen on any maps of the world…such are the places where every man, woman and child, seeks equal justice, equal opportunities, equal dignity without discrimination.  Unless these rights have meaning there, they have little meaning anywhere.
(Eleanor Roosevelt)

How are you promoting children’s rights in your setting?

Further Reading

Early Childhood Ireland (2012) Children’s Rights in Early Childhood Education and Care. Dublin: Early Childhood Ireland

  Dr Sheila Long has been a lecturer in both Early Childhood Education and Care and Social Care at Institute of Technology Carlow at undergraduate and postgraduate levels for the past five years, and has previously worked as a tutor with Early Childhood Ireland, with committed ECEC practitioners working towards gaining qualifications in ECEC at level 6.  As a practitioner Sheila has worked for over ten years with children in a variety of contexts, including Sub-Saharan Africa, and has studied European early years approaches, in particular those of Denmark and Italy and took part in an invaluable study tour with ECI to Norway in 2015. She has recently completed a Doctorate in Childhood Studies, on Children’s Rights Education for Early Years, at Queen’s University Belfast, from which she has developed a model for incorporating children’s rights education into the professional formation of ECEC professionals.



1 comments Comments

One Response

  1. Ann Keating O'Neill says:

    Excellent piece

Leave a Reply

Please Log In to comment:

NCCA(3) STEM(3) playleader(1) Leargas(1) eating(1) Tuscan Approach(2) Shoes(1) MECPI(1) Albert Einstein(1) Shapes(2) Irish guidelines(1) learners(1) Early Childhood Care and Education(2) Workplace well-being(1) Early Childhood Education(1) Reading Time(1) community(5) Italy(1) transitions(10) Advocacy(1) Vivian Gussin Paley(1) Educator - Leader in Practice Award(1) Behaviour(3) GDPR(1) risk assessment(1) Building Resilience(1) Sessional service(1) Traditions(2) Care-giving routines(1) social science(1) National Awards 2019(1) toddlers(3) life long learning(1) Whole Group(1) Motor neuron disease(1) coronavirus(1) Horizon 2020(1) Exploring and Thinking(1) Department of Children and Youth Affairs(2) Treasure(1) bonds(1) movement behaviours(1) Inspired Practice Award(6) Lego(2) continual professional development(1) respect(5) listen(1) Technology(3) Wesco(1) Special Needs Assistants(1) Book Club(2) Competent(1) Partnership with Families Innovation Award(2) conference(1) Self-regulation(1) Independence(1) National Council for Curriculum and Assessment(1) Awards Night(1) Family wall(1) Vertical grouping(1) preschool(4) Large Doll Play(1) Learning Stories Award(3) healthy eating policies(1) feisty(1) Light table(1) Early Years Educators(3) Arithmetic(1) INTO(1) ICBN(1) First 5 strategy(1) educating(1) Iceland(1) Glitter(2) Loss(1) Elders(1) Painting(1) Workplace Relations(3) Reggio(1) European Early Childhood Education Research Association(2) Academic Skills(1) Learning Stories(9) Interactions(3) online training(1) Irish Early Years Research & Practice Seminar 2018(1) First 5(1) Maternity Leave(1) Graduation(1) Engineering(3) St. Patrick's Day(1) linc(1) Mayo(1) Funding(1) Children(4) Obesity(1) Identity and Belonging(4) responsive relationships(1) social media policy(1) Maynooth University(2) Visitors(1) Dr. Emer Ring(1) primary education(1) Nuturing interactions(1) staying connected(1) dublin(2) Upcycling(1) Pedagogical leaders(1) democratic citizens(1) Anxiety(2) Looking Back(1) Deirdre Rogers(1) Awards 2018(3) Educator of the Year Award(3) behavioural science(1) Time(1) Aldo Fortunati(4) Magic(1) Sport(1) development(8) Learning journals(1) Vietnam(1) journey(1) Graduate(1) Arts(1) Equality(1) family time(1) Storytelling(7) Breathing(2) Feeding(1) Wendy Lee(3) MA(1) Certificate(1) Department of Education and Skills(1) Photographs(1) reopening(1) man up(1) Childcare(3) Seanchaí(1) Decision Making(1) COVID-19(14) Communicating(1) Academics(1) Japan(1) Quality(4) Staff Motivation(1) Mud kitchens(1) Music(3) Games(1) Workforce(1) COVID-19 Reopening(2) Liz Kerrins(1) friendships(1) children’s learning(1) Kindness(1) overhear(1) Human Resources(1) Event Guide(1) Thanks(1) Impact(1) grandchild(1) Leadership(1) Mixed age groups(3) Aistear Siolta Practice Guide(1) Loving Relationships(2) Inter-generational learning(2) trust(4) Participation(2) General Data Protection Regulation(1) Learning through Storytelling(1) Super Shed Stories(2) Recycling(2) Summer(1) San Miniato(4) interacting(2) Nonverbal(1) maternity health(1) Home Corner(1) COVID-19 landscape(1) Laughter(1) Kindness Challenge(1) E.coli(1) Adverse Childhood Experiences(1) environments(1) creche(1) Decisions(1) Relaxation(1) Syria(1) Design(1) Yoga(1) Toby Bears Camping Trip(1) Interaction(1) Builders(1) pablo(1) Body Language(1) outdoor environment(1) Kerry(1) Diversity(1) lockdown(1) conversations(1) Wilenski(1) Easter(1) CPD(1) Scéalta Book Review(1) Pedagogy(2) Socioemotional development(1) Drawing(2) child-centric(1) AIM(2) Xbox(1) AsIAm(2) preschool settings(1) Recycle(1) Budget 2019(2) Engagement(1) education system(1) Infection Control(1) early childhood educator(2) The Play and Learning in the Early Years(1) Role play(1) Montessori(3) early life(1) Consent(1) Imagination(3) UD(1) Afghanistan(1) value(1) College(1) Rich Documentation(1) Exploring(1) learning(19) RTE Investigates(1) Learning Story(1) multi-generational community(1) Halloween(2) Grief(1) NAEYC(1) Creative(1) EM Standing(1) Intention(1) Cork(1) Teamwork(1) Mindfulness(3) racism(1) Norway(2) Flowers(1) Maths Week(1) Proceedings Journal(1) gender stereotype(1) emotional environment(2) Twitter(1) Effect of Lockdown(1) Our Little Seed(1) Digital Devices(1) Access and Inclusion Model(2) Childhood(1) Research Conference 2019(1) Cognitive development(1) Scéalta Blog(104) Capable(1) Treasure Chest(1) Annual Conference 2017(2) Early Years(1) emotions(2) Potential(1) Mount Everest(1) Plastic(1) Care routines(1) Magda Gerber(1) National Forum for the Enhancement of Teaching and Learning in Higher Education(1) Creativity(6) National Holiday(1) Exercise(1) Smiles(1) Reopening Childcare(1) Playdough(1) Maths Week Ireland(1) childcare services(1) UN Sustainable Development Goals(1) Snack Time(1) Early Childhood Ireland National Awards(2) Awards 2019(1) budget(1) Iraq(1) Magnavacchi(1) Eritrea(1) Mantra(1) child-centred approach(1) relationships(18) phone apps(1) Belonging(3) Hand Hygiene(2) planning(1) Online Research Symposium(1) Gratitude(1) Síolta(136) role playing(1) Favouritism(1) Playschool(1) Self-Esteem(1) Covid pandemic(2) Wrapping paper(1) SAC(1) Pretend Play(1) gender bias(1) School Age Childcare(1) Winter(1) National Pyjama Day(1) Learning Story Awards(2) Investment(2) Map(1) pets(1) Document Learning(1) European Project(1) ReCreate(2) Meal time(1) Challenges(1) Kids Own(1) dining experiences(1) social media(2) annual awards(1) food(1) The Jelly King(1) Queues(1) Pre-School Services(1) Professionalisation(5) Counting(1) Window(1) curiosity(3) Party(1) Biting(1) Reggio Emilia(2) Culture(2) Irish(1) Cork Institute of Technology(1) meals(3) peer group(1) Adoption(1) Aistear(130) Penguins(1) dogs(1) research submissions(1) IGL(1) Interests(1) Pobal(1) Inspirational(2) education(2) Ceremony(1) early childhood(1) Blocks(1) UNCRC(2) Aistear Siolta in Action(1) Appreciation(1) Valentine's Day(3) Early Childhood Ireland’s National Early Childhood Research Conference 2019(1) play stories(2) Gardening(1) ELC(1) Inclusion(3) Ariana Pucci(1) Early Learning and Care Centres(1) Children's Research Network(1) Settling in(4) Leprechauns(1) Inspired Practice Awards(1) Equality & Inclusion Guidelines Training(1) Pobal sector profile(1) University(1) Sequins(1) Montessori & Early Childhood Professionals Ireland(1) TOY Programme(1) Leaders in Practice(1) Names(1) Exit interview(1) play pod(1) Exploratory Play(1) Snakes(1) Confident(1) PIP(1) Story(2) Stress(2) annual conference(1) Prexit(1) Book Review(1) aistear blog(3) outdoor space(3) Sustainable(1) babies(7) Kilkenny(1) Sculptures(1) Study Trip(1) Margy Whalley(1) keezy(1) Support(1) mushrooms(1) United Nations(1) blog(52) experience(1) CIT(1) National Bereaved Children's Awareness Week(1) EECERA 2016(1) Malaguzzi(1) Communications(1) Spiders(1) National Early Childhood Research Conference(1) Facebook(1) Routines(2) reading(5) baby room(1) play(35) Empathy(1) Performing(1) Covid19 crisis(1) TRAP(1) Trade union(1) Irish Childhood Bereavement Network(1) Scents(1) Growing up Outdoors(1) Time Out(1) Santa(2) Confidence(1) Dr Mary O'Kane(1) play therapy(1) under 3's(3) Providing Leadership to the First 5(1) Environment(2) listening(1) inspiring interactions(1) New Appointments(1) Sweets(1) purpose(1) Pen green(1) Síolta Quality Assurance programme(1) ECIAwards20(1) Universal Design(2) Social Skills(1) risk(2) Infectious diseases(1) parents(6) World Health Organisation(1) Running(1) outdoors(4) Health(2) apps for children(1) Christmas Creativity(2) Community involvement(1) Jenga(1) Little Buddies(1) science week(2) ERASMUS+(3) Mathematicians(1) Small World Play(1) Buddies(1) Valerie Gaynor(1) Trick or treat(1) LINC Award for Leadership in Inclusion(2) Digital(1) Autism(4) Children's Rights(3) Budget 2020(1) Opportunities(1) Bereavement(2) Exclusion(1) Minister for Children and Youth Affairs(1) Return to Work Training(1) Educator Award - Leader in Practice(1) Together Old and Young Programme(1) worries(1) Qualifications(1) Maths(6) Looking Forward(1) documentation(4) Brain(1) Leadership for INClusion in the Early Years(1) Inter-generational(2) Giraffe(2) Snacks(1) learning bias(1) Training(2) First 5 transitions for children award(1) Your place(1) democracy(1) Buddy Bench(1) Craft(1) Sleep(1) Jillian van Turnhout(1) Online(1) Mark Twain(1) Research Seminar(1) learning hub(1) developing motor skills(1) Children and families(1) bloom app(1) Trauma-Sensitive(1) stories(3) Childcare Barometer 2018(1) Degree(1) DES Inspection(1) early years research(2) Thank you(1) Mental Health(4) Sustainability(3) Maria Montessori(1) Siolta blog(8) ears(1) Educators(2) Nutrition(1) Positivity(1) The Lullaby Book(1) International Narratives(1) Seas Suas(1) ECCE(7) Supernanny(1) Mo Scéal(1) RIE philosphy(1) reopening ireland(1) Youtube Series(1) Trigonometry(1) Masterclass(2) june29(1) Love(3) SPICE Framework(1) Arlene Forster(1) Performance Management(1) youdoodle(1) outdoor play(6) Fabric(1) Growing up in Ireland(3) HR(1) keep in touch(1) memories(1) Titles(1) children development(1) Learning Journal(2) Wonder(1) Laugh(1) Dance(1) Plants(1) Sociodramatic play(1) imotion(1) emotional well-being(1) National Awards 2018(2) awards 2020(1) story time(2) refugees(1) art of the relationship(1) Annual Conference 2019(1) curriculum(5) Awards(2) National Annual Awards 2020(1) Primary School(3) COVID-19 crisis(1) DCYA(6) Emergent Curriculum(1) collaboration(1) Weather(1) ECEC Setting(2) Mealtimes(1) Síolta QAP(1) EECERA(1) Meet the Members(1) Limerick(1) Policy and Implementation Panel(1) Covid response(2) Oireachtas(1) books(4) dining(1) Affordability(1) Budget 2018(1) Thinking(1) Rising to the Challenge(2) Frustrations(1) Art(6) Rituals(1) Orla Kenny(1) Fantasy play(1) Anthony Semann(1) Celebrate(1) CCTV(1) Traffic Lights(1) Reflective Practice(1) animals(2) Universal Design Guidelines(1) Line-ups(1) ECEC(3) Policy(2) play pods(2) code of ethics(1) communication(4) Early Years Education(1) Child Care(1) Early Childhood Ireland(10) Inspiring Practice(1) scéalta(55) Inspections(1) Children's Voice(1) Touch(1) Change(1) UN(1) code of professional responsibility(1) educarer(1) iOS(1) early years learning(1) Visual Impairment(1) Child mental health(1) Research and Professional Learning(1) mental health problems(1) National Childcare Scheme(1) GoToMeeting app(1) Well-Being(10) research(6) Administrative Burden(1) Death(2) christmas(9) Trade Unions(1) Through the looking glass(1) risky play(2) Family(1) early years settings(1) Early Learning and Care(1) Minister Katherine Zappone(1) show and tell(1) Maynooth(1) Identity(5) Frosty the Snowman(1) Celebrations(4) Self Help Skills(1) supportive environments(2) Patterns(1) National Research Conference 2019(1) UNICEF report(1) Engineers Week(2) science(3) Employee(1) Fee Play(1) routine(2) structure(1) Reggio Children Network(1) Engineering Ireland(1)


Site maintained and developed by Cloud Nine