What are my child’s rights and how can I best advocate for them at school?

What are my child's rights | Raise the Bar Psychology

As a parent, it is natural to want the best for your child, especially when it comes to their education. But do you know what rights your child has at school? And more importantly, how can you effectively advocate for those rights in Australia?

The Australian education system is designed to provide every child with a quality education and ensure that their rights are protected. However, it can be overwhelming for parents to navigate the complex system and understand how to support their child’s rights.

To ensure that your child receives the best education possible, parents need to be informed about their child’s rights and how to advocate for them at school. From understanding the legal framework to knowing when and how to raise concerns, being an effective advocate can make a significant difference in your child’s educational journey.

Child protection legal frameworks

In Australia, your child’s rights are protected by several important legal frameworks, including:

1. The convention on the rights of the child (CRC)

This international treaty, ratified by Australia in 1990, outlines a comprehensive set of rights for all children under the age of 18. These rights encompass civil, political, economic, social, and cultural aspects, including:

    • Right to survival and development: Access to healthcare, education, and a safe environment.

    • Right to non-discrimination: Protection from discrimination based on race, religion, gender, disability, etc.

    • Right to participation: Having a say in decisions that affect them.

    • Right to protection: Freedom from abuse, neglect, and exploitation.

    • Right to education: Access to quality education and vocational training.

    • Right to play and leisure: Time for play and recreational activities.

2. Australian legislation

Various state and federal laws implement the CRC in Australia. These laws cover areas like education, child protection, juvenile justice, and anti-discrimination.

Some relevant examples include the following:

    • Education Act: Guarantee access to free and compulsory education for all children.

    • Child Protection Act: Establish mandatory reporting of child abuse and neglect.

    • Anti-discrimination Act: Prohibit discrimination against children based on protected characteristics.

3. School policies

Most schools have their policies and procedures in place to uphold children’s rights. These may address issues like bullying, discipline, student voice, and complaint procedures. School policies are often available through a school’s website, or by requesting a copy through the school office. 

 

What are my child's rights | Raise the Bar Psychology

How to advocate for your child at school

If you believe your child is in danger or at risk of harm, that their needs are not being addressed, or that their rights are being ignored, you may need to advocate for them.

1. Identify the problem

Make sure you understand the problem your child is having, ideally including a conversation with your child regarding that issue that is developmentally appropriate.

2. Determine what is required

Thinking about your child’s requirements will help you determine what is best for them. It is critical to have an open mind because there may be solutions you haven’t considered yet. Collect as much information as possible to make an informed decision on what to do.

Here are some guiding steps to effectively communicate with schools and orchestrate meaningful meetings to support your child’s education:

    • Initiate Contact – Reach out to the relevant contact person, expressing your intention to discuss your child’s education.

    • Specify Purpose – Clearly outline the purpose of the meeting. Whether it’s to discuss academic progress, behavioural concerns, or specific needs. Being clear helps set expectations.

    • Request a Meeting – Propose potential dates and formats, whether in-person, over the phone, or via video conference.

    • Provide Context and Confirm Details – Briefly share the context of the discussion. Once the meeting is agreed upon, confirm date, time, and location, or virtual link.

    • Follow-Up – Gather any relevant documents or information you’d like to discuss during the meeting. Stay focused during the meeting, ask questions, collaborate on solutions. 

3. Collaborate on Solutions

Collaboration refers to a joint effort between parents or guardians and the school to address specific challenges or concerns related to a child’s education and well-being. The aim is to work together in a cooperative manner, pooling insights and resources to identify effective solutions and enhance your child’s educational journey. This collaborative approach acknowledges that both parties bring unique perspectives and expertise to the table.

4. Maintain Communication

Keep the lines of communication open. Given that education is a dynamic process, ongoing communication enables both parents and the school to adapt strategies and approaches based on the child’s evolving needs. If there are ongoing concerns or updates, continue to engage with the school as needed. It signifies an ongoing commitment to staying informed about your child’s well-being, addressing concerns, and fostering a collaborative relationship.

5. Include external stakeholders if required

In certain situations, involving external individuals who are familiar with your child and their educational needs in school meetings can be beneficial. This could include allied health professionals such as psychologists, speech pathologists, or occupational therapists. Alternatively, it might involve a private tutor who has been actively supporting your child in areas like reading, writing, or mathematics.

In instances where parents feel they have explored all avenues of communication and collaboration with the school without resolution, seeking assistance from a professional advocate, such as the Children’s Commissioner or the Human Rights Commission, may be considered for further support.

Additional resources

What are my child's rights | Raise the Bar Psychology

Final thoughts

Knowing your child’s rights and advocating for them at school is crucial for their educational success and overall well-being. By understanding the laws and regulations in place, communicating effectively with teachers and administrators, and staying involved in your child’s education, you can ensure that their rights are protected and their needs are met.

Remember, your voice as a parent is powerful, so speak up and fight for your child’s rights to create a positive and inclusive school environment. Together, we can empower our children to thrive and reach their full potential.

Book an appointment with one of our experienced psychologists today to discuss your needs and whether our assessment and/or intervention services are appropriate for you and your child.