The role of the student voice in any school is an important element. It means that those take part in some way can offer their ideas, thoughts and opinions on what matters the most. The enhancement and development of life at school should always be upper most in the objectives of any school voice project or council.
A student voice engenders empowerment, self-confidence and a feeling of self-worth in the school they attend and it offers life skill learning and community issue awareness.
The importance of the student voice
Pupils often say that nobody listens because they are seen as ‘children’ and that they feel they should have a say. This is why every school should have a student voice mechanism so that there is a way for ideas to be shared and initiatives created and achieved.
Of course, it isn’t possible for every idea to come to fruition due to budget or curriculum restrictions, but there are a range of possibilities for where there can be important student input:
- School uniform policy and clothing
- Playground features and maintenance
- Tuck shop availability and stock
- Overall school maintenance; paint colours perhaps
- Being part of staff interview panels
- Subject specific discussion groups
- Annual pupil survey
A school council should have the opportunity to be run by the pupils themselves with the support of a number of staff. There needs to be a representative number of council members from different year groups with an annual vote taking place at the beginning of each school year to elect the officials for their form or year.
The voting process is a learning opportunity in itself and a way for the school to work together on inter-form and cross-year projects in activities which can dovetail into the curriculum for a number of subjects. These can include History, ICT, Media Studies, Maths and English as well as being a vehicle for cross-referencing to any local or national or even international elections taking place at the same time.
Once elected, there should be regular council meetings set up to cover the coming term or year. It’s important to emphasise the dedication required by the pupil if elected by their peers and the role they will be committing to.
Community and charity partnership projects
Students are often given the chance to work with local government community projects to be the voice of local young adults. These initiatives may have a specific theme such as development of town environmental projects or crime reducing work.
Being chosen to be the student voice in such a high profile scenario is of great kudos and their contribution should be highlighted and promoted to the rest of the school and also the local media. It’s a good way to offer integration possibilities and to show the local community that their young people are interested in the future of the area they live in.
Through either the school council or interest groups set up by the students themselves – as part of classroom activities as an example – working with local charities gives pupils an insight into how they work and how a charity is set up. These are all excellent work readiness skills and could easily act as a springboard for some to choose to build a career in this sector.
Having a vehicle for a student voice means that pupils know that their thoughts are listened to and that that their opinions are important. For the school, this in turn translates to a positive impact on attendance, achievement and the desire for student engagement, so a worthwhile experience for all involved.