Teaching Citizenship in the 5-14 Curriculum using
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban

Citizenship Issues
in Harry Potter



Human Rights

Legal Issues


Links and References

Human Rights

Throughout the Harry Potter stories, we see Harry as a happy boy at school but an unhappy boy at home with his relatives, the Dursleys. He is often the victim of verbal abuse and has to endure repeated insults towards his dead parents.

All around the world there are children who are bullied, ignored, abused, hurt, made to feel worthless or forced into doing things that are unsafe. In 1989, the UN extended the convention on human rights to include a separate charter dedicated to children’s rights as it felt that “childhood is entitled to special care and assistance.” The treaty has since been ratified by every country in the world, with the exception of the USA and Somalia (both of which have indicated their intention to ratify by formally signing the Convention)


Laws that protect us

Find out more about Amnesty's Human Rights Education resources and Amnesty UK's Education resources



Harry is shouted at and pushed by Uncle Vernon. He gets verbal abuse from Aunt Petunia. His uncle says that Harry is sent to St Brutus’ school for hopeless cases, where they use the cane.

Vernon: St Brutus’s. It’s a fine institution for hopeless cases.

Aunt Marge: They use the cane at St. Brutus's, boy?
Harry: Oh. Yeah, yeah. I... I've been beaten loads of times.

Should children who are ‘hopeless cases’ be included in schools?

Harry is taunted for not being able to return to school and having nowhere else to go. He is used as a servant.

Discuss power relationships. Uncle Vernon is the adult. Does he take advantage of his position? Harry is luckier than many children as Vernon is scared of his magic abilities. What could he do if he couldn’t threaten Vernon with his wand?

Harry: She got what she deserved!
[Harry points his wand at Uncle Vernon]
Uncle Vernon: You're not allowed to use magic outside your school!
Harry: Yeah? Try me.


Insulted family

Harry is continually being told by his family that he is worthless. What are the effects of this? What defence mechanisms does Harry develop to help him cope with life at home?

The Convention stresses the importance of family and supports its status as the preferred environment for children to grow. “The child should grow up in a family environment, in an atmosphere of happiness, love ad understanding.”

Marge: It’s all to do with blood. … [Harry’s father] and a drunk too no doubt … it’s nothing to do with the father, it’s all to do with the mother. You see it all the time with dogs. If there’s something wrong with the bitch then there’s something wrong with the pup.

Harry: Shut up! Shut up!

The Convention also states that children should be free from punishment or discrimination as a result of their parents’ activities, beliefs etc. Harry is continually ‘punished’ by the Dursleys because his parents were wizards. What other examples can you think of that might cause you to be teased or bullied?



After an argument with his aunt and uncle, Harry packs his trunk and runs away from home. What does he feel? What do you think you would feel like? Where would you go? Does Harry know where he is going?

Imagine you’ve run away from home. If you were homeless, where would you go? What would you do? Who do you think would help you? Write a postcard home describing your feelings.

Investigate homelessness. Why do young people leave home or run away?

Uncle Vernon: You don't have anywhere to go.
Harry: I don't care. Anywhere else is better than here!


A silent voice

Near the end of the film, when Dumbledore is talking with Harry, Hermione and Ron in the hospital wing, Dumbledore explains to the children that their word about Sirius’ innocence will not be enough. He says:

Dumbledore: A child’s voice, however honest and true, is meaningless to those who have forgotten how to listen.

The Rights of the Child Convention says that:

Article 12: "The child who is capable of forming his or her own views the right to express those views freely in all matters affecting the child"

Discuss different opportunities for child voice e.g. pupil voice within school (school council etc), child voice within the family. Encourage pupils to become involved.


Where to go for help

Childline and Samaritans will help people who have problems or just want to talk. Shelter help people who are homeless.

Childline is the free 24-hour helpline for children and young people to call to discuss any problem, at any time - day or night. ChildLine's counsellors are there to help you find ways to sort things out. ChildLine is confidential - which means we won't tell anyone about your call unless you want us to talk to somebody for you, or you are in danger. Our lines can be busy at times, but hold on and you will be answered.”

"Samaritans is available 24 hours a day to provide confidential emotional support for people who are experiencing feelings of distress or despair, including those which may lead to suicide."

Activity: Design a poster advertising either ChildLine or the Samaritans.

Page created by K. Farrell, J.A. Kemp, Y. Mitchell, and J. Norman, June 2005