This paper analyses the views and preferences of children and young people who experience barriers when attempting to engage with schools and schooling. It specifically considers processes of formal and informal exclusion and the manner in which ‘stigmatised’ children are treated within a system that’s attendance to children’s rights is, at best, sketchy and at worst - downright discriminatory. The paper poses a number of critical questions concerning the extent to which the views of children are given due weight in decision-making processes in schools, whether the background a child comes from affects the way school staff listen to them and whether school rules act as a barrier or enabler for children’s rights. In turn, these questions are related to what educational processes might look like that place due weight on the views of children, what cultures create barriers to listening in practice, and what we can learn from children’s overall experiences. The paper presents findings from a participatory empirical peer research project (funded by a Carnegie Research Incentive Grant and the University of Edinburgh Challenge Investment Fund) conducted with and by young people in schools in Scotland and the north of England. This paper is innovative as it is the product of collaborative working between academics at the University of Edinburgh, staff at Investing in Children and the young researchers who co-authored this article for publication.