As soon as we found out the school was going in for the award, we reached out to the Director of the Rights Respecting School Award (RRSA), giving a full explanation of why we thought the school, at this time, didn't deserve the award, and how actions they had taken (and we had reported on) were, even though it sounds very first-world-problem to say, breaking children's rights.
We said that "by [RRSA's] own admission in RIGHTS RESPECTING SCHOOL AWARD: CLASSROOM CHARTERS OR AGREEMENTS document, the "schools are responsible for promoting a rights-respecting environment", which makes the rights violations of the schools more poignant. For instance, our blog [...] has been blocked for over 18 months now on all school servers and computers, because we have published opinions that paint the school in a negative, if ever truthful, light. Equally, the Wikipedia page written about us has also been blocked. If these do not count as violations of Rights 12, 13 and 17 of the Rights of a Child Charter, then we don't know what is."
We went on to say that "writing for the blog is an expellable offence, hence us all having to write anonymously, for fear of our education being threatened [...] This threat of expulsion surely contravenes Article 12 again, as well as 13, 15, 16 and 28." We pointed out that "in 2014, we reported on how the school had left the personal details of over 400 students and their parents on a public server. We were instrumental in fixing this grave error in the school's ways, and then made sure it was reported locally, so that the school could not simply brush it under the carpet. Before we intervened, the school were violating Article 16 of the RCC, as well as Article 3 of the UN Human Rights Declaration, and the UK Data Protection Act of 1998."
We also commented on smaller issues "such as [the school] generating a Girls Only Area, which we pointed out was gender segregation, contravening Article 2 of the RCC, as well as raising a whole other group of problems and assumptions. The school has admitted that it needed to be taken down, but still has yet to do it."
Now, when posed with evidence such as this, you would expect a Director of a UNICEF body (you know, those people that deal with children's rights) to at least investigate the instances we spoke of, and include any report with the final report on the school. Instead, the pithy, frankly spineless response, which perfectly typifies the bureaucracy the United Nations represents, said that "it seems a great shame that communications between a group of pupils who have a good understanding about the Convention and a school that is committed to making rights real have broken down. I hope that there someone you can discuss this issue with, explain what is happening and that the situation is then dealt with to your satisfaction", as if they hadn't read anything we'd said, or understood at all how the suffocating grip of the Management works.
He went on to say that he had "contacted Hampstead School", like that would do any good, and was "concerned" about what we had said, but after "considerable discussion" with the school had "agreed that the assessment visit should take place on the date agreed", so, in layman's terms, was going to completely ignore us and forge on ahead regardless. He went on to say that "individual situations and experiences outside the assessment process cannot, on their own, determine the school’s accreditation as Rights Respecting. However during the assessment visit the RRSA assessors meet a large number of people predominately students and that should give you the opportunity to discuss your situation."
Obviously, we were a little bit miffed. We wrote back:
"We understand that, of course, to have consistency in assessment, you must generate your own conclusion of the school through your own data, but it seems, then, that you only gain a false, or rather narrow, representation of the school. You must be aware of the 'best behaviour' policy that schools adopt when under inspection, that leads to a brushing under the carpet of unfortunate truths. There must be some element of background research that goes into the assessment that removes this issue, surely? To discount instances that are obvious violations, just because they are outside a specific timescale is to be giving yourself an inconclusive judgement, and shows tunnel vision in the assessment system. Boko Haram may not kill anyone between today and tomorrow; doesn't stop them being genocidal.
We know this is none of your fault, and the example is an extreme one for the case at hand, but you must see that, without proper representation, its a bit hard for the school not to get the award. This is what we are offering; the flip side of the coin. We agree that these instances cannot count towards an entire accreditation, but they must be beared in mind when taking the decision, as they garner a certain gravity uncommon for your average North London comprehensive.
We hope when your assessors do come, they are allowed to pick which students to discuss school matters with, and not the school, as you will find yourself being handed students wholly apathetic or uningratiated with the truth that they will only confirm the bias in favour of the school."The reply this time was a mix of exhasperation and wistful generalisation, saying that
"what [The Trash] identify is the downfall of all inspection, assessment and award schemes as you can only make a judgement on the evidence you see at a particular time and by its very nature it is a snapstot [sic].
The assessor is very experienced in assessing Level 2 secondary schools and he has been alerted to your concerns. Please make sure that you volunteer for focus groups and then hopefully we will get the fairest picture of Hampstead school that we can." When it came to the inspection, despite our prior warning, the assesor was handed a group of students that reflected the views the school wanted to impose of the school, and so to our knowledge only two students said anything other than the expected apathetic wimperings of mindless individuals. Even with this, and the evidence we gave, it was a nigh-on certainty that the school would get the award, also with with the several thousand pounds paid to the RRSA (see follow-up article).
See the next article on the RRSA for our questions to the Director of RRSA after the status was awarded to the school, and his answers, available soon.