Session 1: Human rights: What are they, and how can they be protected?

Citizenship (Ages 11-14)
Session 1: Human rights: What are they, and how can they be protected?
  • Different Needs, Common Ground
  • Human rights: What are they, and how can they be protected?
  • Exploring the Human Rights Act as a framework for living in a safe and equitable society
Key Messages
  • As citizens of the UK, we all have certain rights that are currently written into law in the Human Rights Act (1998). It is important to protect human rights, but it is not always easy to do so; sometimes rights can conflict, and it can be difficult to find a balance between different rights.
  • Protecting rights is everyone’s responsibility.
  • Students will explore the Human Rights Act and the different kinds of rights that it protects
  • Students will consider cases where rights can conflict, and use their own judgement to weigh up competing rights
  • Students will distinguish between different kinds of rights that are protected in the HRA
  • In the role of “judges”, students will consider seven cases and in each case identify and balance the rights involved
  • Students will explore how responsibilities are connected to rights

Starter: Miriam’s Story

  • Show Miriam's Story videos 1 to 4 of 4 (unless you have preceded the Citizenship module with the “Miriam’s Vision” PSHE module) and recap the content of the videos. MV Resource 0 Info for Students.pdf is a single page summary of Miriam's Vision and its aims. Print and distribute a copy to each student. Discuss.
  • Assign each student a number from one to five and have them sit in groups with others with the same number. Then project Slides 1 and 2 of MV Citizenship Resource 1.1 Intro to Human Rights and ask them to imagine they are one of the following, depending on their number:

1. A family member of someone who was killed in the 7/7 bombings

2. A police officer

3. A commuter who takes the tube to work every day

4. A Londoner of Asian appearance

5. The Mayor of London

  • As per the slide, tell students that it is 07 August 2005, a month after the bombings. Ask them how they feel, what they fear, and what they think should happen next.  You may want to give them a few minutes to discuss it in the groups they share a number with, in character, before feeding back to the whole class.
  • This activity could throw up lots of different thoughts and feelings. If necessary, take time to discuss these with students.  The purpose is that they understand some of the conflicting pressures that followed the events. You might want to discuss the concerns of police to prevent future attacks, or fears in the Muslim community about increased Islamophobia, in the media and elsewhere. You could also highlight how different people in similar situations might develop very different responses.


Phase 1: Introducing rights

  • Explain to students that in today’s session they will be learning about rights. Ask them which of the five people on Slide 2 have rights. The answer is all of them.  Suggest to students that rights were not respected on 7/7, but that thinking about rights is a good way to make sure everyone is treated fairly in the way we respond to an event like this.
  • Students may already have some familiarity with the concept of rights. In pairs or groups, ask them to write their own definition.  They may find the words on Slide 3 useful to help them.
  • Show Slide 4 about the Human Rights Act, 1998. This protects the European Convention of Human Rights by UK law, and lists all the rights that we legally have as citizens of the UK. If students have previously studied the UN Declaration on Human Rights, you may wish to contrast the two documents.  The main distinction between the UN Declaration and the Human Rights Act is that the HRA is UK law.
  • Give each student an A4 copy of MV Citizenship Resource 1.1 Intro to Human Rights. Read it through and discuss any unclear terms. Then show Slide 5 and ask students to highlight which rights concern crime and punishment, and which concern politics and making change. Link back to 7/7 by asking them to identify which rights were not respected on that day. There is also a thinking question on the Slide 5 as an extension for G&T students: “Can you think of any situations where our rights should be limited?”
  • Show Slide 6 and explain that some rights are absolute while others can sometimes be limited. Ask students to guess which of the rights are considered to be absolute. Slide 7: There are four: Article 2 (right to life), Article 3 (protection from torture), Article 4 (protection from slavery) and Article 7 (no punishment without law).

Phase 2: Human rights case studies

  • Show Slides 8 to 11 and ask students to imagine that they are judges. They must consider seven cases, on Slides 12 to 18, reproduced in MV Citizenship Resource 1.5 Human Rights case studies as a .pdf, relating to human rights. In each case, they must decide:
  1. Which rights are involved
  2. What they think should happen
  • There are several ways of organizing this activity. Each case could be discussed collectively as whole class. Alternatively, you could divide the class into seven groups and give each group a print-out of each case from MV Citizenship Resource 1.5 Human Rights case studies to consider. The groups pass the print-outs around, so that each group sees all the cases, or they could feedback orally to students from other groups. Students can make notes individually or as a group on A4 copies of MV Citizenship Resource 1.3 You Be the Judge student sheet.

The seven cases are all based on real situations, which have been simplified for the purposes of this resource. An interesting extension (e.g. for G&T students) may be to read some articles about the real-world cases. The cases are:

1. “Fabrice Muamba: racist Twitter user jailed for 56 days”

2. “UK prisoners denied the vote should not be given compensation, ECHR rules”

3. “Gay snub Cornish B&B owners lose Supreme Court appeal”

4. “Blair pushes for 90 day detention”

5. “RAF Fairford protesters win legal battle against police”

6. “Article 3: No torture, inhuman or degrading treatment”

7. “Liberty wins landmark stop and search case in court of human rights”

  • Get feedback from the students about their thoughts. As they are feeding back, you might want to tell them about the outcomes of the actual cases.  More information is on MV Citizenship Resource 1.4 You Be the Judge teacher sheet. Do they think the outcomes are fair? Why / why not?

Plenary 2:  Conclusion

  • Show Slide 19 and discuss the statement: “There are no rights without responsibilities.” What does it mean? Do they agree?
  • Show Slide 20 and return to the five characters from the start of the session. How might they be affected by human rights? e.g. the police officer will have to consider human rights when dealing with criminals and suspects


You may ask students to research one of the case studies in more detail online, or to find out about their own example of when the Human Rights Act has been used.