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Merchiston Castle School Attains UNICEF’s Gold Award: A Triumph for Children’s Rights

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Merchiston Castle School, Scotland’s sole independent all-boys boarding school, has attained the prestigious Gold Award in UNICEF’s Rights Respecting Schools programme.

Established by UNICEF UK in 2004, the Rights Respecting School initiative puts the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child at the heart of a school’s planning, policies and practices. The prestigious Gold accolade is the final stage of the RRS programme. It is awarded to schools that have demonstrated the utmost commitment to promoting and realising children’s rights at all levels of school life. 

Merchiston previously achieved UNICEF’s RRS Bronze Award in June 2019, followed by Silver in March 2022. The Gold Award is the most challenging to obtain, with only 600 schools across England, Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to have ever gained this recognition. 

The assessment process entailed a School Evaluation: Gold Standard report submitted by Merchiston before an accreditation visit where UNICEF assessors spoke to parents, staff and 40 students.

UNICEF praised children’s evident passion and confidence towards human rights and the high levels of student participation, which enabled boys to feed into decision-making throughout school life. Merchiston was also commended for the strategic approach of senior leaders to embed a rights-based approach at the core of the school’s ethos. 

Of particular note was Merchiston’s use of the Orah App to foster wellbeing across the school and record concerns flagged by students. One pupil was reported to have said “If you are feeling sad and don’t want to speak up, you can write how you feel on Orah and know someone will listen and help”. 

“We are incredibly proud to receive UNICEF UK’s Rights Respecting School Gold Award. It is a testament to Merchiston’s commitment to upholding children’s rights and to our ongoing efforts to embed rights education into all that we do here so thatchildren feel respected, their talents nurtured and rights understood.”

William Ogilvie-Jones, Merchiston’s Rights Respecting School Awards Lead

“At Merchiston, we feel very strongly about supporting the needs of the individual. Taking part in the RRS initiative has helped boys to understand their rights, and those of others, and the importance of being responsible, respectful members of the community.”

“A huge thanks to the students, staff and parents who have helped us achieve this award, it truly has been a remarkable team effort.”

Jonathan Anderson, Headteacher of Merchiston Castle School

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