Children's right to be heard during whole-school evaluation in Irish primary schools: student's and teachers' perspectives

  • Suzanne Conneely

    Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy


    The right of children to participate in all matters affecting them is enshrined in the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC, 1989) and most specifically in article 12, which relates to the child’s right to express his or her views freely and to have such views given due weight. As school inspection is a matter affecting children, it is, therefore, a matter about which they are entitled to have their views sought, listened to and taken into account. This study, by a practising inspector, considers the implementation of the principle enshrined in article 12 in respect of whole-school evaluation (WSE), a model of school inspection, in Irish primary schools. It explores, from the perspectives of children and their teachers, how inspectors could better engage with children’s views during WSE.

    The research was undertaken in one primary school in the west of Ireland and involved senior-grade students (aged 10-12 years) and their teachers. The data set, from focus- group interviews and draw-and-write activities, was analysed qualitatively. A children’s rights-based approach was employed: two distinctive elements of this approach include the deliberate steps taken to build the participants’ capacity in understanding WSE and children’s right to be heard; and the involvement of a children’s research advisory group (CRAG). The CRAG took part in various stages of the research including the choosing and preparing of data collection methods, analysing data, and disseminating findings.

    The study shows that children have views about inspection and want to express them. This thesis makes a strong argument for the importance of facilitating children to express their views freely during inspection and to have their views given due weight not merely as a data source for accountability and performativity but as part of an empowering, emancipatory process benefitting students, schools and the Inspectorate.

    The study proved to be successful on a number of levels, notably in the development of a methodology that allowed children to contribute fully as research participants and to present their perspectives on inspector-student consultation. Furthermore, it contributes to the existing knowledge base regarding children’s rights in education focusing in this instance on their right to be heard during school inspection.
    Date of AwardJul 2015
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • Queen's University Belfast
    SupervisorLaura Lundy (Supervisor) & Jannette Elwood (Supervisor)

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