The Year of Childhood

A year-long celebration of childhood running from January 2021 – April 2022 and hosted by Children’s Parliament. We explored childhood through the lens of children’s human rights, creating opportunities to share rights-based practice in an atmosphere of optimism and confidence.

(On the UNCRC and Incorporation) it sort of raises the level; it’s been an ongoing issue about making sure that we really are inclusive of younger children. We could quite easily say, ‘oh well, we didn’t include them because…’ and I think with this inspiration, maybe we can really have really good conversations about it, and move it forward because it’s every child’s right to have their views considered.

Professor Kay Tisdall, Edinburgh University

Love, happiness and understanding

The Year of Childhood consisted of a portfolio of events, discussions, webinars and roundtables from which we shared the learning and the inspiring stories.

The overall aim was to help make children’s human rights a reality in Scotland.

The resources developed during Year of Childhood have become the basis of our Podcast series, Children’s Rights in Action and our Rights-Based Practice in Early Years Programme.

There’s a party going on right here An incorporation to last throughout the years So bring your dance shoes, and your bunting too We’re gonna eat cake and make rights real with you!

Members of Children’s Parliament

Our celebratory approach to the news of Incorporation allowed us the opportunity to renew our audience, reaching out in a positive, upbeat manner to those who might have been hearing about children’s rights for the first time. By positioning Incorporation as something exciting, something that benefits everyone, we could gently challenge the fear and misunderstandings we know exist about the potential impacts of children’s rights and children’s right to redress.

We received lots of enthusiasm and engagement with Year of Childhood. The theme struck a chord with a vast community of people, and as we had hoped, the opportunity to reflect on one’s own childhood enabled children’s rights to be understood outside of a practice concept.

Year of Childhood also demonstrated the need to bring children’s rights to life in an ‘everyday’ way with all citizens as delivering on children’s rights though everyday actions and behaviours improves outcomes for children, their families and communities. Moving forward, we would like to work more closely with targeted strategic partners to develop this campaign building through our future Grow The Movement work.

Our Year of Childhood Report, documenting everything we achieved through this programme of events, can be found here:

More about The Year of Childhood…

It consisted of a portfolio of events, discussions, webinars and roundtables from which we shared the learning and the inspiring stories. The overall aim was to help make children’s human rights a reality in Scotland. 

Who was it for?

Whilst children were, of course, central to the Year of Childhood – sharing experiences and advising Children’s Parliament on the programme – Year of Childhood’s chief audience was grown-ups – we wanted them to be listening, sharing ideas and experiences, raising awareness and promoting good practice whether that be in the home or in the community or at work. 

Why 2021? 

The aim of the programme was to support the implementation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC), which was unanimously voted into Scots law in Spring 2021. 2021 was also Children’s Parliament’s 25th birthday year and we had a lot of learning to share!

What’s the big deal with children’s human rights? 

The UNCRC sets out the human rights that must be realised for every child to flourish and reach their full potential. Making children’s human rights real ensures all children grow up happy, healthy and safe and live with dignity. It is rights-based practice which will drive Scotland to be a nation that ensures children grow up in a world of love, happiness and understanding. 

Why celebrate childhood?

Childhood is (arguably) the most important time in our lives, a time when lifelong health and wellbeing outcomes are established and where habits of a lifetime are formed. Adults must always seek to do better by our children and the Year of Childhood helped to amplify what we can do differently to improve the lives of children, families and communities. 

What Did We Do?

Your Childhood Stories
Throughout the Year of Childhood, we captured your stories to highlight and reflect what “happy, healthy and safe” looks and feels like in practice. We also worked closely with Our Story Scotland to develop a Podcast Series called “Childhood”, which shared the wide range of childhood experiences evidenced by the LGBTQ+ community in Scotland.

Pass the Party
Our Pass The Party celebrations (March 2021) kicked off our spotlight on what the UNCRC could look like and feel like in Scotland.  

Summer series
Our Summer Series (May – July 2021) featured conversations between our Co-Directors and a variety of experts from different fields on the core values of rights-based relationships with children. 

In Conversation With…
Our “In Conversation With…” (September – November 2021) asked our speakers to reflect on the impact that a rights-based approach has on their work; what they have learned, what obstacles have challenged them, and what opportunities they have found.

Putting Theory into Practice Webinar
We also facilitated a Sector Webinar Series, “Putting Theory into Practice” where we brought sector professionals and children’s rights practitioners together to discuss how we can draw connections between the two important fields of theory and practice. Our first Sector Webinar, in discussion with Community Learning and Development can be found here.  Our second Sector Webinar, with the Creative Arts sector, can be found here.

Early Years
Our Early Years Webinar series was funded by Cattanach, and sought to bring together key stakeholders in Early Years settings to share what a children’s rights-based approach looks and feels like in Early Years Settings, and to reflect on where the sector currently sits with regards to the incorporation of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). For more information on Rights-Based Practice in the Early Years, please see our work here.

Children’s Parliament also commissioned a Scottish Book Trust Bookbug experience card, to inform and support discussion with families around the UNCRC incorporation into Scots Law. Experience cards are sent to every new family in Scotland, with over 85,000 recipient families in the first two years.

To celebrate Children’s Parliament’s 25th Birthday, we brought together partners and supporters, old and new, to reflect on everything Children’s Parliament has learned and achieved over the past quarter century – and took the opportunity to recognise some very special #UnsungUnfearties!


All Events were recorded, and can be found below:

Year of Childhood and Early Years: A Parents’ Discussion | 18/01/2022
This discussion focuses on the support parents need in order to engage with and have knowledge of the UNCRC.
We are delighted to be joined by a panel of parents, including Angela Phillips (Early Years Scotland) and Jane Malcolm (National Day Nurseries Association).

Year of Childhood and Early Years: Children’s Rights in Practice | 14/12/2021
The focus of this discussion will be establishing what a children’s rights-based approach looks like and feels like in practice.
We are delighted to be joined by Sarah Laing (Innerwick ELC), Lynn McNair (Cowgate Under 5s), Kayleigh Marshall (Calderbridge Primary) and Jane Brumpton (Early Years Scotland).

Year of Childhood and Early Years: Where Are We Now? | 30/11/2021
The focus of this discussion will be setting the stage for of where the Early Years Sector currently is in relation to the implementation of the UNCRC.
We are delighted to be joined by Doreen Watson (The Care Inspectorate), Michele Doull (Early Years Scotland), Judith Walsh (Starcatchers) and Sophie Flemig (Cattanach).

Michele Doull kindly shared her slides with us, available here.

Link to the Care Inspectorate’s personal plans guidance:

Starcatchers’ links as mentioned by Rhona:

Children’s Rights Based Approach to supporting a Child through Bereavement | 08/10/2021
This conversation brings together Bruce Adamson (Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland) and Denisha Killoh (National Childhood Bereavement Coordinator), to discuss the ways in which we can offer a children’s rights-based approach to supporting a child through bereavement – and the impact offering this approach can have. 

#UnsungUnfearties | 29/09/2021 
Do you know someone who promotes, protects, or defends children’s human rights? Please tell us about them!
We want to shine a light on #UnsungUnfearties as part of our 25th birthday celebrations and inspire others to bravely champion children’s rights.
All nominees will receive a special silver Unfearties badge.
N.B Nominations are now closed.

Unfearties: What Makes a Movement? | 28/09/2021
#UnfeartiesAssemble! We’re inviting all our Unfearties to join us as we think about what makes a movement, and what makes us ‘Unfeart’. The event will begin with an inspirational discussion between Cathy McCulloch (Co-Director, Children’s Parliament), Clare MacGillivray (Director, Making Rights Real) and Maff Potts (Founder, Camerados). We’ll then split into break-out rooms to consider children’s rights as adults’ promises through a short art activity (please bring paper and pens!) and sharing our own stories of Unfeartieness.

“It’s up to you, me, all of us!” | 23/09/2021
(In partnership with Edinburgh Futures Institute and Scottish Climate Assembly)
In November, Scotland is set to host COP26, bringing together decision-makers from across the globe to agree on actions for addressing the climate emergency. With six weeks until COP26 taking place, this event in our Year of Childhood “In Conversation With…”  Series is a unique, timely opportunity to hear from some of the children involved in Scotland’s Climate Assembly – and to consider broader questions of how to meaningfully involve children in decision-making processes about the climate emergency such as citizens’ assemblies and other forms of deliberative democracy going forward. In this conversation, we will bring together our 12 Investigators, in partnership with members of Scotland’s Climate Assembly to share their experiences of working together and what they learned from each other.

Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice –
Claire Lightowler and Cathy McCulloch | 17/09/2021

Cathy McCulloch, Co-Director at Children’s Parliament and Claire Lightowler, former Director of Children and Young People’s Centre for Justice (CYCJ), discuss how the CYCJ have moved over the past seven years from working from a strategic approach, to working from a children’s rights-based approach and the learning they have developed through this.  
NB: This was filmed earlier this year, during Claire’s last week at CYCJ. 

Museum of Childhood  | 03/09/2021
Lyn Stevens and Susan Gardner from the Museum of Childhood join us to talk about the ways in which children have been represented through books over the years, and how that has impacted on the ways in which children view themselves, and adults view children. 

Mind Yer Time  | 23/08/2021
Earlier this year, our Screensavers, in partnership with Scottish Youth Parliament, revamped the Mind Yer Time website – a resource developed by children, for children – to support everyone who loves social media and screen time. In this pre-recorded Webinar, our Screensavers share their favourite additions to the website, and why they think it’s so important to use. They have positive tips, stories and information for children and young people, to help you use your screen time positively!

Empathy, with DrAutumn Roesch-Marsh      |    02/07/2021
Dr Autumn Roesch-Marsh, Lecturer in Social Work (University of Edinburgh) meets with Colin Morrison, Co-Director of Children’s Parliament to discuss the importance of empathy in the development of rights-based relationship.
Presented as part of our Summer Series

Trust, with Suzanne Zeedyk      |    18/06/2021
Suzanne Zeedyk (University of Dundee), a research scientist fascinated by babies’ innate capacity to connect, speaks with Cathy McCulloch, Co-Director of Children’s Parliament, to discuss the role trust has to play in a child’s development.
Presented as part of our Summer Series

Happiness, with Neil Thin    | 4/06/2021
In this conversation, Neil Thin, a recognised expert in happiness, speaks with Colin Morison, Co-Director of Children’s Parliament on the role of happiness in childhood.
Presented as part of our Summer Series

Kindness, with Ben Thurman    | 21/05/2021
Ben Thurman (Carnegie UK) meets with Colin Morrison, Co-Director of Children’s Parliament to discuss the role of kindness as we develop rights-based relationships with children.
Presented as part of our Summer Series

Love, with Dr Adam Burley  |  07/05/2021
Dr Adam Burley, Consultant Clinical Psychologist, NHS Lothian, speaks with Colin Morrisson, Co-Director of Children’s Parliament about his understanding of the importance and impact of love in childhood.
Presented as part of our Summer Series

“Children’s Rights and the Creative Arts Sector”
In partnership with Youth Theatre Arts Scotland     |    25/05/2021
Click here to visit our webpage of resources and a recording of the event
Presented as part of our Sector Webinar Series

“Putting Theory into Practice”
Community Learning Development      |    30/03/2021
Click here to visit our webpage of resources and recording from the event
Presented as part of our Sector Webinar Series

The Year of Childhood was supported by Scottish Government, CORRA Foundation, and Cattanach

Date: 2022
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