"The term ‘pupil voice’ refers to ways of listening to the views of pupils and/or involving them in decision-making. You may also hear the expressions ‘learner voice’ or ‘consulting pupils’. A feature of effective leadership is engaging pupils as active participants in their education and in making a positive contribution to their school and local community". Department for Education - Listening to and involving children and young people.
What is a School Council?
A school council is a group of pupils elected by their fellow pupils to represent their opinions, and to raise issues with the headteacher and governors in your school. The school council can be actively involved in projects on behalf of the pupils, making sure there are ways for everyone to be involved. They can even feed into the School Development Plan, Governers meetings and staff interviews.
To be effective, the school council must:
- Represent ALL pupils
- Listen to all pupils and communicate their views
- Feed back to pupils about what happened about their views
- Effectively communicate with SLT
- Make things happen – and when they can't, explain why not
Why involve children and young people?
Our Government is committed to the promotion and protection of children’s rights, in line with the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. It believes that children and young people should have opportunities to express their opinion in matters that affect their lives.
Some of the benefits of involving children and young people in decision making are:
• It encourages pupils to become active participants in a democratic society - by holding youth parliaments and school councils which develop skills such as cooperation and communication and encourage them to take responsibility.
• It contributes to achievement and attainment - young people involved in participative work benefit in a range of different ways. Increased confidence, self-respect, competence and an improved sense of responsibility have all been reported by young people who contribute in school. Schools also report increased motivation and engagement with learning.
Promoting fundamental British values as part of SMSC in schools
As part of a section 5 inspection, Ofsted inspectors must consider pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural (SMSC) development when forming a judgement of a school. Ofsted publish their inspection framework and handbook, which set out how schools are assessed in relation to pupils’ spiritual, moral, social and cultural development. Schools should refer to Ofsted’s documents to understand what inspectors look for in assessing this.
Examples of actions a school can take:
• ensure that all pupils within the school have a voice that is listened to, and demonstrate how democracy works by actively promoting democratic processes such as a school council whose members are voted for by the pupils;
• use opportunities such as general or local elections to hold mock elections to promote fundamental British values and provide pupils with the opportunity to learn how to argue and defend points of view;
an understanding of how citizens can influence decision-making through the democratic process;
Our School Council Workshops
Our FREE school council workshops are for all Cornwall school council coordinators/link teachers/staff, both old hands and newbies, and are a great opportunity to discover new resources and think about ways to ensure your school council is effective. Please see our training page for details of our forthcoming sessions.
UNICEF UK's Rights-Respecting Schools Award
UNICEF UK offers an award enabling schools to work within the principles of the Convention of the Rights of the Child. Schools that have worked for this award find that pupils are happy to engage and talk about the rights of the child and can explain the importance of respecting each other's rights. Aspects of the work towards the award are included in a range of subjects but also form the core of whole-school themes in citizenship. It takes about eighteen months for a primary school to attain Level 1 of the award, for a secondary school, longer. To find out more, download this briefing paper and go to the UNICEF website. Trewirgie Infants' School chose to work on this for Healthy Schools Plus, read the case study.
Parliament's Education Service
The UK Parliament's Education Service website has lots of online resources such as games, videos, whiteboard resources, lesson plans and printed resources. Schools can also book visits to Parliament through the website. The Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, is giving awards to school councils who have completed great projects, read more.
Promoting Active Democracy Loudly (PADL)
Promoting Active Democracy Loudly (PADL) is a set of standards for primary school councils which guide and measure effective student voice, representation and leadership within schools. School councils/pupil parliaments can gain a PADL award for their work at Bronze, Silver, Gold or Platinum level. Your school can also document the work of your school council to gain a Healthy School award - contact us to find out more.
Submission Deadline: 25th May 2018 - you can submit at any time, but this is the deadline to ensure you are invited to the Awards Ceremony. You need to ensure you have arranged an assessment visit with your locality's Healthy Schools Delivery Advisor.
Awards Ceremony: 22nd June 2018 at New County Hall, Truro.
NEW for 2017/18: PADL for Secondary Schools - please contact your Healthy Schools Delivery Advisor if you wish to go for a secondary PADL award this year.
Find out more on our dedicated PADL site
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