At Capel-le-Ferne Primary School we are very serious about 'pupil voice' and encouraging children to get involved in the wider school community. With this in mind we have just restructured our School Council to enable it to be as effective as possible.
What makes an effective School Council?
A school council is a body of pupils set up to represent all pupils on issues that affect them; anything from what is sold in the tuck shop to changes in school buildings. There is no fixed structure for a school council, and they range from a group of pupils from different classes who might meet on occasional lunchtimes to a fully-fledged parliament.
To be effective the council must be representative of the views of all the pupils. The least vocal pupils must be given opportunities to have a ‘voice’. This may be through class circle times, class councils, or a suggestions box/book, which may all feed ideas in to the main school council. There should be a democratic ‘election’ for councillors, preferably by secret ballot (where children don’t know who voted for who, as opposed to being asked to put their hands up to vote in full view of their peers, which might affect their vote). A school council should consider issues raised by the pupils and have a system in place to feed back to them on actions, outcomes and achievements.
What drives our school council ?
In order for our school council to be effective, it is vital to question the purpose and role the council will fulfil.
What are the key drivers of our council structure?
A ‘children’s right’ driver, which recognises that children have rights, including the right to have their opinions taken into account in decisions that concern them – something recently reinforced by the Every Child Matters agenda.
An ‘active citizenship’ driver, which highlights the way in which pupil voice can contribute to preparation for citizenship by improving pupils knowledge and their ‘transferable’ and ‘social’ skills and, in doing so, enhance the quality of democracy.
A ‘school improvement’ driver, which recognises that consultation with pupils, can lead to better school performance, whether in terms of behaviour, engagement or attainment.
A ‘personalisation’ driver, which utilises pupil voice to ensure that schools are meeting the specific needs of their pupils as consumers of education.
Our School Council Offers:
A way of running the school as a genuine partnership between staff and students
An opportunity for students to develop important life skills through initiating projects and solving problems
Evidence of a sincere respect for students’ views
A means of raising academic achievement
A natural development that builds on the inclusion of staff in decision-making
What our School Council Looks Like at Capel:
A team made up of between 8-12 pupils (Year 3-6). They are led by a class teacher and 3 pupils who are the Head Pupils.
Children wishing to be considered for a place on the School Council – must prepare a speech, giving the reasons why they think they would do a good job on their chosen team. They will give their pre-prepared speech to their class one at a time. Class peers will then vote for the pupil they think will do the best job. There can be a maximum of 2 class members elected from each class. 2 additional children are picked from across the 4 classes who show promise and are considered to have the skills to be an asset to the School Council. These are picked by the headteacher and are informed by discussions with staff.