Article 29 of the UNCRC says that a child or young person’s education should help their mind, body and talents be the best they can. It should also build their respect for other people and the world around them. In particular, they should learn to respect:
- their rights and the rights of others
- their freedoms and the freedoms of others
- their parents
- the identity, language and values of countries— including their own.
Education should prepare children and young people for a responsible life in a free society. It should teach them how to live in an understanding and tolerant way that is non-violent and that respects the environment.
Article 29 of the UNCRC says children and young people have the right to be educated in a place other than state school, such as a private school or by their family. The government shouldn’t make it so the only places they can study are provided by the State.
Access to water is a human right. It’s essential to a child’s right to health, and to fully realising their right to education.
In 2019 the Children’s Future Food Inquiry report identified access to free drinking water in schools as a key issue which disproportionately impacts children experiencing poverty and food insecurity.
Education authorities in Scotland are required to provide drinking water to children in schools. This duty is set out in Regulation 7 of The Nutritional Requirements for Food and Drink in Schools (Scotland) Regulations 2020.
This is still the law during the coronavirus pandemic.
No emergency law or policy has changed this.
No guidance has been issued at a national level which would prevent water being provided to children in school for health reasons.
It is important that access to drinking water is provided safely and education authorities should support schools to do this.
If you’re not being allowed access to fresh water at your school – or if you know of a child or young person who’s being denied it – you should contact the head teacher in the first instance and draw their attention to the regulations and to this statement.
If necessary you can ask the head teacher to seek advice from the education authority, who should support them to ensure that drinking water can be provided within the school in a way that protects the rights to health of children and staff.
The Commissioner’s office has written to the Scottish Government asking them to provide clarity to schools on this matter.
More in the Rights questions and answers section
General Comment on the aims of education
The Committee on the Rights of the Child has produced many General Comments that help people understand how the UNCRC works in practice. Their first, General Comment 1, is about the aims of education from a human rights perspective.