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Breaking Down Boundaries: Voice and Participation in English Primary Education

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Pupil voice and active participation form two central elements of international Human Rights Education (HRE) provisions. This article draws upon empirical research conducted in primary schools across England to gauge the nature and extent of these processes at classroom and school level and to understand better the reasons for apparent deficiencies in their practice. It argues that whilst there is good practice regarding both concepts, they are nevertheless constrained within tightly controlled boundaries. The underlying reasons for these constraints – including concerns about loss of control and reservations about the value and efficacy of school councils – are explored by drawing upon data from qualitative interviews with teachers. Suggestion is made that in order to break down the boundaries that currently restrict voice and participation, teachers need to become comfortable with the idea of rights respecting learning environments and this will only happen through the provision of HRE in their own teacher training.

Affiliations: 1: School of Law, University of Warwick, Coventry, UK,


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