Case study #2: StreetsAhead Tranent – sharing stories, shaping futures 

cp-logo-final-cs4  This case study was written for Together’s 2016 ‘State of Children’s Rights’ report by Chelsea Stinson, Programme Manager at Children’s Parliament. The case study headlined the chapter for the General Principles of the UNCRC.

Children’s Parliament is working towards a future where all children in Scotland are valued for what they can offer and are actively engaged in shaping our world.  It is important for their experiences, views, concerns and ideas to be sought and taken seriously by adults who are making decisions at home, at school, in the community, and in local and national government.  Children’s voices should be heard whenever decisions are being made that affect their lives.

As part of Scottish Government’s Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design 2016 and the Festival of Architecture, StreetsAhead Tranent explored children’s views of and experiences in their local community and built environment, examining how these factors impact on children’s rights and wellbeing.  Children’s Parliament engaged with local primary schools and community members to share stories of Tranent’s past and present in order to generate ideas to shape the future of the town.

Children aged 8 to 11 from Elphinstone, Windygoul, St. Martin’s RC, Ormiston and Sanderson’s Wynd primaries participated in whole class, creative workshops with a strong emphasis on history, heritage, conservation and intergenerational discussion. These workshops included inputs from local community members, urban planners and architects, historians and archaeologists, and wildlife rangers.

Following nine workshops, a small group of 16 children from across the five schools engaged in an intensive creative process that included visits to historical sites including Prestongrange Museum, Seton Collegiate Church and the APOGI project, tours of Tranent High Street, and working with artists, drama facilitators and local professionals to create a mural reflecting the views of all 250 children who took part.  This project resulted in a 24’ x 4’ mural and a series of films that showcase the StreetsAhead journey, from classroom workshops through creation of the mural to a series of exhibitions and events that share StreetsAhead Tranent with community members and stakeholders.

While StreetsAhead Tranent achieved its main aim of producing a mural that reflects children’s experiences in their local environment, what made this project so successful was the commitment and investment of East Lothian Council and the Fa’side Area Partnership.  Officials recognised the value of engaging directly with children and taking their ideas seriously.  Because of this, numerous additional opportunities have developed from the initial StreetsAhead project, for both the participating children and the local community.

Children’s ideas for the future of Tranent have been included in the Fa’side Area Plan and money has been earmarked by East Lothian Council to turn these ideas into a reality.  For example, the children have asked for more green spaces along the High Street and a town market where families and community members can go to sell and buy local goods.

This commitment was also apparent when an opportunity arose for StreetsAhead to be involved in the UNCRC Day of General Discussion in Geneva.  Children’s Parliament, the International Play Association and the Children and Young People’s Commissioner for Scotland (CYPCS) worked with Terre des Hommes to develop Under the Same Sky, an international constellation of projects that shared children’s views on the environments in which they are growing up.  This included projects from six countries – Mozambique, Australia, Palestine, Zimbabwe, Brazil and Scotland.

Initially, through support from Scottish Government and CYPCS, Children’s Parliament aimed to get the mural to Geneva and share a film from the project.  However, East Lothian Council and the Fa’side Area Partnership viewed this as an opportunity for increased attainment and raised aspirations for the participating children and contributed funds to allow the children to travel to Geneva to share their work directly with the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child.

StreetsAhead Tranent demonstrates the possibilities for how children’s voices can be included in local and global dialogue, if adults are willing to invest the time and resources needed to create appropriate and supportive opportunities for children to engage and to listen to and value their contributions.  Children’s voices should have a ripple effect, influencing life in those spheres closest to them as well as the wider discussions of national and global significance.

The StreetsAhead mural has since been displayed at Waverley Station – you can follow all the latest on the StreetsAhead Tranent project here.

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