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Human Rights Education


Alison Struthers

for further information about this project.

The Centre’s work in this field assesses how the concept of Human Rights Education has been implemented on the ground, what the major impediments to its successful implementation are, and how such impediment can be overcome in the future.

Human rights education is fundamental for addressing the underlying causes of human rights violations, preventing human rights abuses, combating discrimination, promoting equality, and enhancing people’s participation in democratic decision-making processes.
Amnesty International

Further Information

Centre fellow Alison Struthers has written an article with Diane Webber of the Centre on National Security and the Law in Georgetown University, Washington DC that will feed into the Government review of current approaches to countering extremism in the UK. The article suggests that a human rights framework is likely to be more effective at building resilience within formal education to the pull of extremism.

Centre fellow Alison Struthers has recently published an article in the European Human Rights Law Review (Debunking the "criminals' charter": education as an antidote to human rights sensationalism, E.H.R.L.R. 2017, 2, 169-179) exploring the issue of human rights sensationalism. The proliferation of human rights stories in the UK media and on the political stage that are exaggerated at best or entirely apocryphal at worst has arguably contributed to widespread hostility and scepticism towards the topic. Whilst not a panacea, formal education has the potential to alleviate the attitudinal problems caused by hyperbolised or erroneous accounts of human rights. The next generation should be equipped with the knowledge, skills and values necessary for questioning and challenging populist and reductive human rights stories, in particular those that perpetuate divisive "them and us" dichotomies. The English education system, however, appears to be moving away from supporting teaching practices that would provide learners with the tools required for this task, and this article argues that this is particularly detrimental at a time when teaching young learners about human rights is becoming of increasing importance.

Centre fellow Alison Struthers has published a report, along with Kathy Siddle and Julie Mansuy, on 'Teaching Fundamental British Values in Primary Schools'. The report summarised the findings from a project carried out in 4 primary schools in Warwickshire and the West Midlands in which resources were piloted that showed how Fundamental British Values can be taught through the lens of human rights. The project was funded by the ESRC Impact Acceleration Account and the report can be viewed here.

Centre fellow Alison Struthers has recently published an article in the Journal of Human Rights Practice that draws upon empirical research to gauge the nature and extent of empowerment in English primary schools, and seeks to better understand the reasons for any deficiencies in its practice. The article argues that in order for learners to become empowered human rights activists, they must be equipped with relevant knowledge, skills and attitudes. It suggests that whilst empowerment-related concepts may be encouraged to a certain extent in English primary schools, learners are unlikely to be emerging from formal schooling with the means to contribute significantly to transformation of the broader human rights culture. (Struthers, A., The Underdeveloped Transformative Potential of Human Rights Education: English Primary Education as a Case Study (DOI: 10.1093/jhuman/huw023). A small number of free access links to the journal are available here.

Centre Fellow Ali Struthers organised a successful event on campus on the 11th of November with primary and secondary school pupils as part of the ESRC Festival of Social Sciences. The event saw 60 primary pupils from Widening Participation schools attend campus in the morning and 60 secondary pupils from WP schools in the afternoon. The pupils took part in workshops that addressed challenging issues in the social sciences through literature appropriate to young people. The workshops were run by Ali (human rights), Phil Gaydon (war), James Harrison (labour rights) and Lucy Hatton (immigration), and the event was well-received by all who took part. Read about James' experience of his morning workshop here. And for media coverage of the event, click here.

This interdisciplinary workshop will take place from 2-4pm on Thursday 29 September in LH228 in the Lord Hope Building at the University of Strathclyde. It seeks to bring together academics from English, Law and Education, as well as teachers and writers, to discuss writing for young people and making difficult or complex issues accessible for this audience.

For more information please contact Alison ( or Claire Cassidy at the University of Strathclyde (

Centre Fellow Alison Struthers and Phil Gaydon from Philosophy and IATL have been awarded funding to run an event at the ESRC Festival of Social Science on Friday 11 November 2016. The event will explore controversial issues in the social sciences with primary and secondary school pupils, focusing on difficult social science-based themes raised in children’s literature. By looking at literature addressing difficult issues from disciplines such as Law, Philosophy and Politics, the workshop aims not only to engage young people in important issues like human rights, climate change and morality, but also to show teachers how they in turn can use children’s literature to broach these subjects in their own classrooms. The literature will be explored through discussion and activities involving, for example, drama and art. For more information about the event, or if your school might be interested in attending, please click here or contact Alison (

Centre fellow Alison Struthers has recently published an article in Social and Legal Studies discussing the importance of understanding fundamental British values (FBV) in the context of broader human rights values (Struthers, A., ‘Teaching British Values in Our Schools: But why not human rights values?’ Social and Legal Studies (2016) [DOI: 10.1177/0964663916656752]). The article considers in detail the most recent attempt to explicate the meaning of the term through the 2014 FBV curriculum guidance for English schools. It suggests that the articulation of FBV included in the guidance conflicts with the UK’s existing international obligations concerning the teaching of human rights values in schools. Couching British values in the broader framework of human rights would not only address much of the current anti-human rights sentiment, but would also be likely to contribute to societal cohesion and harmony to a far greater extent than the vague and potentially discriminatory FBV guidance.

Centre fellow Alison Struthers has published an article in the International Journal of Children's rights discussing the importance of voice and participation in schools as key components of international Human Rights Education obligations (Struthers, A., ‘Breaking Down Boundaries: Voice and participation in English primary classrooms’ (2016) 24 The International Journal of Children’s Rights 434-468). 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 better understand the reasons for apparent deficiencies in their practice.

Alison Struthers has been awarded £9,217.76 by Warwick ESRC IAA to aid her in developing educational resources that will show how the requirement to teach fundamental British values in primary schools can be linked to broader human rights frameworks. Well done Alison.

For more information about Warwick ESRC IAA funding please click here.

Centre research fellow Alison Struthers hosted a lunchtime workshop on 'Writing About Human Rights for Children' on 19 February 2016. The IAS interdisciplinary workshop brought together academics from English, Law, Philosophy and Education, as well as teachers and writers, to discuss writing for young people and making difficult or complex issues accessible for this audience. There were short presentations from two children’s authors, as well as discussions around existing books that address difficult subject matter in an effective way.

Alison is running another workshop on Writing About Human Rights for Children at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow in the Autumn. Please watch this space for more details on the event, or email a dot struthers at warwick dot ac dot uk if you might be interested in attending.

In 2015, the Centre published a report by Centre Fellow Alison Struthers.
The report contains recommendations for improving the extent and quality of Human Rights Education (HRE) within Initial Teacher Education (ITE) in Scotland. The research project that led to publication of the report carried out in-depth analysis of the current extent and nature of HRE provision at each of the Scottish universities currently offering programmes of ITE, and the final report sets out important recommendations for reform based on the findings from this research.

Following publication of the Centre for Human Rights in Practice report, Building Blocks for Improving HRE within ITE in Scotland (2015), Alison Struthers has published an article identifying some of the challenges facing Human Rights Education (HRE) in Initial Teacher Education (ITE) in Scotland (‘Building Blocks and Beyond: How Human Rights Education in Initial Teacher Education May Help to Change the Human Rights Landscape in Scotland’ (2015) 47(2) Scottish Educational Review 5-19). The article provides suggestion for how these barriers could be overcome, or at least alleviated. It argues that HRE in ITE is important not only for equipping teachers with the confidence and skills to be able to provide effective and empowering education in this area in their classrooms, but also for contributing to a broader cultural change where human rights are mainstreamed and accepted to a greater extent within society. The article suggests, however, that a number of changes in both policy and practice would be necessary to overcome the current barriers to HRE and to ensure that education in this area is consistent, widespread and effective.

Alison is travelling to Canada to attend and present at the Canada International Conference on Education, being held at the University of Toronto Mississauga between the 27th and 30th of June 2016. She is co-presenting a paper with Chrystal Lynch of the University of Manitoba entitled ‘A Comparative Exploration of Human Rights Education in Primary Schools and Higher Education Institutes’. This comparative paper draws upon the authors’ respective research fields in England and Canada and they plan to write a journal article together following the conference. Alison is also chairing a panel on ‘Global Issues in Education and Research’
For more information, please go to

Centre Fellow Alison Struthers has recently published an article in the Human Rights Law Review discussing the current barriers to Human Rights Education (HRE) (‘Human Rights: A Topic Too Controversial for Mainstream Education?’ (2016) 16(1) Human Rights Law Review 131-162). The article identifies that HRE is important for empowering people to stand up for their rights and for the rights of others and is considered to be the most effective means of challenging widespread negative attitudes towards human rights by introducing learners to the relevant values and concepts at an early age. It argues, however, that even teachers who may be inclined to teach in this area are often not doing so. Drawing upon empirical research, the article considers why teachers are hesitant about HRE by exploring their conceptions of human rights as too: (i) controversial; (ii) abstract; or (iii) biased a subject for young learners. It is argued that to overcome these distorted ideas, there needs to be (a) a cultural shift in the educational landscape to ensure that HRE is mainstreamed within state educational policy, and (b) improved teacher training on HRE.

On 4 April 2016, the Oxford University Press blog published a post by Centre Fellow Alison Struthers on the controversial nature of teaching about human rights in schools.

Alison Struthers has published an article in the International Journal of Human Rights that seeks to evaluate the efficacy of the specific formulation of Human Rights Education provided by Article 2(2) of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Education and Training (‘Human Rights Education: educating about, through and for human rights’ (2015) 19(1) The International Journal of Human Rights 53-73). Whilst demonstrating the usefulness of Article 2(2) for assessing and comparing state practice in the provision of HRE, the article explores whether the influence of the Declaration’s formulation of HRE could be strengthened through improved linkage with relevant provisions in other international instruments together with more detailed guidance or clearer obligations within the Declaration itself. By drawing upon Scotland as a case study, it is suggested that there is enthusiasm for and commitment to HRE at the coalface of formal education, but that what is missing are comprehensive and consistent national strategies in accordance with each of the principal requirements of the international legal framework. It is argued that such national strategies are likely to follow only from more detailed guidance or clearer obligations at the international level.