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THE POWER OF STUDENT VOICE power to improve… BERNARD TRAFFORD.

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Presentation on theme: "THE POWER OF STUDENT VOICE power to improve… BERNARD TRAFFORD."— Presentation transcript:

1 THE POWER OF STUDENT VOICE power to improve… BERNARD TRAFFORD

2 Student Voice: why? ECM/Ofsted Right in principle School improvement

3 Every Child Matters 1. Be healthy 2. Stay safe 3. Enjoy and achieve 4. Make a positive contribution 5. Achieve economic well-being

4 Every Child Matters 1. Be healthy 2. Stay safe 3. Enjoy and achieve 4. Make a positive contribution 5. Achieve economic well-being

5 Student Voice: what? Consultation Focus groups Analysis/surveys etc Working groups School Council Democratic participation: inc. Teaching and Learning

6 Added Value of School Democracy improved behaviour increased attendance reduced bullying better kept rules warm, mutually respectful relationships between teachers and pupils (and also among both groups) strengthened, shared school ethos creating a feeling of ‘our school’ among pupils and staff raised levels of attainment, including hard-edged exam results.

7 Added Value of School Democracy improved behaviour (2.safe) increased attendance (2.safe: 3.enjoy/achieve) reduced bullying (2.safe: 3.enjoy/achieve) better kept rules (2.safe: 3.enjoy/achieve) warm, mutually respectful relationships between teachers and pupils (and also among both groups) (2.safe: 3.enjoy/achieve) strengthened, shared school ethos creating a feeling of ‘our school’ among pupils and staff (3.enjoy/achieve: 4.contribution) raised levels of attainment, including hard-edged exam results (3.enjoy/achieve)

8 School Council Visible symbol of school’s commitment to student voice and democracy Monitor of ethos Agent of change

9 (School Councils UK cartoon)

10 So why do councils so often disappoint? “Case studies found that school councils were often limited by a lack of continual student interest, and that many school councils were badly organised and promoted. Teachers also attributed the ineffectiveness of school councils to a lack of leadership by students, a lack of support by senior management and a school ethos that did not encourage participation.” (NFER Citizenship Longitudinal Study)

11 Why do councils run out of steam? 96% of English secondary heads say that their school has a school council 45% of secondary school pupils report being involved in school or class elections (NFER Citizenship Longitudinal Study)

12 What’s are the obstacles to Student Voice? 1. People? 2. Council? 3. Wider Student Voice?

13 Common causes of school council underperformance: senior staff school ethos does not embrace student democracy senior staff do not believe in or support the council headteacher not seen visibly and actively to support the council the headteacher doesn’t confront (or persuade in the face of) adult fears about empowering pupils Time/energy not devoted to student voice

14 Common causes of school council underperformance: teachers teachers are hostile to/fearful of the work of the council teachers ignore the work of the council class teachers/tutors ignore the work of the council – and the contribution needed from them

15 Common causes of school council underperformance: students students don’t know council is there students don’t know what council is for students don’t know what council does expectations of what can (or can’t) be achieved are unreal or unclear people are shy: unwilling to take a prominent role

16 Common causes of school council underperformance: the council itself council doesn’t understand its role council petitions instead of engaging actively with problems council works hard but successes are invisible communication between elected representatives and the grassroots is poor

17 More causes of underperformance: structure the council structure and/or size are inappropriate inadequate time given to council meetings council meetings held irregularly and/or infrequently council meetings not given high-status, protected time feedback is poor

18 More causes of underperformance: structure roles are not clearly understood training for representatives and council officers is non-existent or inadequate boundaries and non-negotiable are not understood the council lacks a credible voice because – council members are appointed or imposed by staff rather than elected by pupils – the council membership does not reflect the pupil body – some minorities are excluded from representation or participation in the council

19 Making Student Voice work Getting the elements in place Getting the brief right

20 Head’s support Clearly engaged Promotes successes Overcomes teachers’ (and others’) fears Develops real democracy: doesn’t direct or select

21 Getting the brief right 1 Understanding roles: active, not petitioning (School Councils UK cartoon)

22 Getting the brief right 2 Clarity and training Involvement at grassroots level Communication and staff support Clear understanding of roles: another training need Clear boundaries

23 Structures and procedures Elections: getting the right people Skills Structure and size Time Protected time Training

24 Extend Student Voice Surveys and promotions eg Healthy Schools: students as advocates Peer support: students as counsellors Conflict resolution Anti-bullying initiatives Fixing events/festivals: students as organisers School newspaper/SV website/radio station/podcasts etc Appointing staff: students as interviewers T&L: students as observers Student behaviour panels

25 Dangers of building student voice into school improvement School starts to direct student voice instead of working with it School Council ‘tasked’ School Council by-passed Focus/task groups drawn from ‘suitable’ students School Council loses control of personnel No room for dissent/negotiation Pressure to get results diminishes democratic process

26 Control takes over from trust

27 Trust If you think the worst of people and show it, they will often prove you right. If the systems we design are based on the principle that people cannot be trusted, then those people won’t bother to be trustworthy. On the other hand, if you believe that most people are capable and can be relied upon, they will often live up to your expectations.’ [Charles Handy (1997) The Hungry Spirit: beyond capitalism – a quest for purpose in the modern world]

28 Trust repaid

29 Dr Bernard Trafford Royal Grammar School, Newcastle upon Tyne


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