|Editor||P. Cunningham & N. Fretwell, Lifelong Learning and Active Citizenship|
This paper introduces the themes explored in the symposium by seeking to connect various strands of argument and evidence to provide an overview of the Rights Respecting Initial Teacher Education course being developed at London Metropolitan University. Our starting point is the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child and the vision of education that flows from a commitment to this document. We then explore this in relation to policy developments in England around reform of the Children’s Workforce and a commitment to a series of policy objectives collectively known as Every Child Matters. These two starting points are interpreted through a theoretical position which seeks to re-position teaching as a political activity, rather than a de-politicised, professional activity. This position interprets the children’s rights agenda from Freire’s commitment that "education either functions as an instrument which is used to… bring about conformity or it becomes the practice of freedom.” Having established this critical perspective we then consider the evidence emerging from school developments – the workplaces for our student teachers. This evidence base suggests that some schools are already developing innovative ways to realise children’s rights, both formally through their recognition by UNICEF as Rights Respecting Schools, and through the more piecemeal implementation of student voice, student observer, student researcher and school council initiatives. This evidence is discussed in order to identify trends which should inform initial teacher education. Finally, through a discussion of the critical theoretical perspective outlined in part 1 and the pragmatic response to evidence presented in part 2, we outline a model of initial teacher education which situates education within wider social contexts and therefore sees the teacher as a change agent within wider social change. In this sense, rights are interpreted and reinterpreted through the forces that shape social change and thus present a radicalising agenda for teacher education.