This paper considers children’s agency within the framework of children’s rights education (CRE). It starts by considering the ways in which agency is conceptualised within the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC) and the implications for education. Then the paper outlines ten propositions that offer teachers a variety of tools for thinking about what children’s agency means and what they can consciously do to develop it. Children’s capacity to act does not derive from their age or level of development, it is produced through interactions with those around them. Adults can boost children’s agency by providing them with opportunities to engage, building routines that become habits, ensuring they have access to appropriate information, supporting them to develop informed opinions, and genuinely demonstrating how they can have an impact. The CRE approach does not assume children have all the information and capabilities required to exercise agency effectively in all matters, rather it works with children to nurture and develop their agency. It follows that, in schools where children cannot exercise their agency, responsibility for the remedy lies with the adults as duty bearers.
Bio: Lee Jerome is Associate Professor of Education at Middlesex University. He has worked in secondary schools as a history and sociology teacher, in the charity sector running citizenship projects and in universities, teaching on a variety of courses from undergraduate to doctoral programmes. His main interests are linked to citizenship education, human rights education and initial teacher education. He is editor of the academic journal Education, Citizenship and Social Justice and co-editor of the teacher journal Teaching Citizenship. His books include England’s Citizenship Education Experiment (2012), Effective Medium-term Planning for Teaching (2015 with Marcus Bhargava), The Rise of Character Education in Britain (2019 with Ben Kisby), The Prevent Duty in Education (2020 edited with Joel Busher) and Children’s Rights Education in Diverse Schools (2021 with Hugh Starkey).