I can’t be the only one who loves anything Jacqueline Wilson writes and Hetty Feather has always held a place in my heart.

Being one of Jacqueline Wilson’s most famous books, Hetty Feather follows the life of a girl who was abandoned by her mother at a foundling hospital. (A foundling hospital was originally an institution for children who had been abandoned. It was not necessarily a medical hospital, but more commonly a children’s home, offering shelter and education.)

Hetty is then sent to a foster home where she had a happy childhood, but is sent back to the foundling hospital to start her education. Hetty is treated poorly by the teachers, and on a school trip out, she runs away to find her real mother. Hetty gets returned to the hospital, but she does find out who her real mother is, leaving her with what some may feel, a happy ending!


Right to an education

We in Wales have the right to an education, which is why in theory Hetty gets sent back to the hospital. It seems unfair that she’s taken away from her new family, but having an education is something that every child should have access to. In modern day Wales this can either be through home-schooling, public school, or private school. You can learn more about your rights to an education here.

Any place of education nowadays MUST respect children’s rights. The Welsh Government has a duty since the adoption of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) under the Rights of Children and Young Persons (Wales) Measure 2011 to make sure this happens, and where something isn’t right, to make sure the child is protected.

Article 28 of the UNCRC says every child has the right to an education. Primary education should be free. Secondary and higher education should be available to every child.


Your rights in school

So, what are your rights in school? It’s important that the teachers and staff treat you with respect. Hetty Feather gets treated poorly in school by the teachers, as she gets bullied by one of the teachers just for speaking up for herself. Schools in Wales are required by law to have a school council to allow for collective voice under the School Councils (Wales) Regulations 2005. This is one way children can have a say on what happens in school.

Article 12 of the UNCRC is about the rights of children and young people to express their views, feelings and wishes, and to have their views considered and taken seriously.

Sometimes as children, it can be hard to think your opinion matters, but you have the right to express your thoughts, especially when you are at school.


Violence should not be a part of a child’s life

As I’ve said, Hetty Feather is treated awfully at the foundling hospital, but the worst thing that happens to her there is getting locked in a dark cupboard throughout the night for standing up to a teacher. No one is EVER allowed to treat you like this. Not your parents, teachers, or guardians, no one.

Article 19 of the UNCRC say governments must protects children from violence, abuse and being neglected by anyone who looks after them.

There is now extra protection for children against violence in Wales, as it has been made illegal for parents or guardians to hit children as discipline. You can read more about the landmark legislation here – Children (Abolition of Defence of Reasonable Punishment) (Wales) Act 2020.


Foundling hospitals and care

A foundling hospital was a home for children who couldn’t be with their biological families for various reasons, and they were taken in and supposedly looked after and given an education. There are no longer any foundling hospitals in Wales, or the rest of the United Kingdom, but some children are still in situations where they cannot be with their immediate family.

Article 20 of the UNCRC says that children looked after by the government, should be properly looked after and are entitled to special care and assistance.

Hetty is sadly not looked after properly and doesn’t get to see her biological family. In modern day Wales, only a court can authorise a child’s separation from their family, and where this happens, a child has the right to contact with their family unless that is decided by a court to be not in the child’s ‘best interests’. The main laws that ensure compliance are the Children Act 1989 (UK Legislation) and the Social Services and Well-being (Wales) Act 2014 (Welsh Legislation).


After reading this blog, you’ve probably noticed that Hetty didn’t have a great start in life. But since the period in time Hetty lived, lots has changed and in lots of ways improved for children living in Wales. Some of these have been highlighted above and include:

Hopefully all these progressive legislative changes mean young people like Hetty in modern day Wales would be protected and supported if they found themselves in her situation.

Leave a comment below if you can think of any other ways Jacqueline Wilson books show the law!


About me

Hi! My name is Rhiannon Parry, and I am an English Literature student at Swansea University. Jacqueline Wilson books were a huge part of my childhood, so it was fun and interesting to get to write this blog about one of her books. It’s good to know that children have more rights now than they did back when this was set!