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Improving pupil voice

Discussion in 'Behaviour' started by tubbyfan_17, Dec 15, 2011.

  1. I am after ideas or successes! I am doing a project linked to a masters about pupil voice. In our school, 68% of the pupils feel that they do not have a say in what happens in school. Our school council is not very efffective at the moment. So, how do you make sure that your pupils have a voice in your school? Any advice or effective practise would be appreciated as I am aiming to reduce this percentage but unsure of what to implement.
  2. " 68% of the pupils feel that they do not have a say in what happens in school. "
    the fact they were asked shows something, doesn't it?
    Do some surveys and feedback to them how you have listened and have decided to do what you were going to do anyway. That's what most schools do.
  3. jubilee

    jubilee Star commenter

    That doesn't mean that they didn't have a say. It means that when asked, they perhaps couldn't remember an instance of requesting something and getting it!
    Change the wording on the questionnaire. Instead of "Do you think you have enough of a say in what happens in school? Yes/No have:
    Last year we listened to you and put on an end of year disco, had a trip to a city farm, set up a wild garden area and a vegetable plot, gave rewards to those who made an effort in class (instead of to those who mostly played up and occasionally calmed down), laid on lunch-time and after school clubs and collected funds for your chosen charity. Are you happy with those developments? Yes/No
  4. jubilee

    jubilee Star commenter

    I hardly think that the school is discriminating against the majority of pupils and only taking notice of 32% of them!
    Are they perhaps being like stroppy teenagers (even if younger) whining that no-one ever listens to them?
    Are the dissatisfied pupils the ones who request silly things like "We want to do fun things, not reading and writing! That's well boring!"? They've still had a voice but it's not appropriate to indulge it and no-one should be losing sleep over somehow failing them!
  5. Tom_Bennett

    Tom_Bennett Occasional commenter

    While I absolutely wish you all the best in your project, I counsel caution, mostly on the grounds that Student Voice is a Satanic and moronic attempt by the Devil to dismantle education and accelerate the 1000-year reign of the Antichrist. And that's putting it mildly.
    This isn't to say that I have no interest in what children think; I do. In fact I often ask my students to give me feedback on how they're doing, and what they might like to do. I take it in context; I consider it; I add it to my own thoughts and professional judgement, and then make a decision based on all of these ingredients.
    But Student Voice as a modern article in schools was invented in the Frankenstein laboratories of education as a reflex response to the Every Child Matters initiative, which was itself a reflex, mouth-breathing response to the tragic death of Victoria Climbie. How that translates into asking kids what they should be taught, and having students on interview panels, I scratch my head in confusion, but there we are.
    See, I get that we should value children; that's why we teach them. What I don't get is that they should somehow be considered to have the full raft of rights enjoyed and endured by adults. They are children; we, for all our faults, are not. That matters. That means something.
    It inevitably becomes an exercise in most schools of reversing the natural order of institutions that have endured for millions of years in perfect evolutionary equilibrium, like the shark or the crocodile. It works just fine when grown ups are in charge, and we decide what's best for children, taking care of them and directing them with love and altruism. Then along comes student voice, unlovely and unloved, a child without a father, a policy generated externally to the profession required to submit to it, and that paradigm flops on its head.
    So the mere fact that some children don't feel like they've been listened to, does nothing but fill me with satisfaction, and the suggestion that this is somehow a bad thing, makes me feel that, in some ways, the Enlightenment never happened.
    Ask yourself a meta-question: why should we ensure pupils have a voice? And to what end does it serve? Then you can decide if your present strategies are fit for purpose, rather than turning the cart before the horse and devising a tool for a job that doesn't need to be done.
    Good luck
    Read more from Tom here on his personal
    blog, or follow him on Twitter here.

  6. jubilee

    jubilee Star commenter

    I return to the initial post where it was stated that 68% of pupils state that they felt they had no say in what happened in school.
    Did the school only issue questionnaires for feedback or suggestions to only 32% of pupils? Did they speak to children in class or in assembly and say that only a designated 32% of pupils would be canvassed for their views?
    No. What probably happened was that everyone was appraised of the initiative to get feedback and suggestions and some took part. Maybe everyone suggested something. Some of those suggestions or comments on lessons/teaching were not valid (adults who are educated and trained for the profession can be the judge of that).
    Some children resent not getting what they asked for and will respond negatively to a further canvassing of their opinion. Their wish list might have included inappropriate things or unaffordable initiatives. Their suggestions might have been approved but be in a later stage for implementation.
    It's rather simplistic to take the statistics of what was probably a very unscientific 'market research' initiative to heart.
    If you do put great store by the results, 32% stated that they did feel that they had a say in the school. Approximately a third of the intake (all young children) feel that they hold some sway in school.
    I wonder how many workers feel that they have a voice in how their department store, factory , restaurant or office is run? The vast majority will be paid to follow set procedures, like it or lump it. Their management will have established what they regard as the most productive way for the business to be conducted. There may be a suggestion box for efficiency measures but only a tiny minority will see their suggestion implemented.
    I read only today about a new syndrome being picked up in young children. It's about many being unable to accept being told what to do. With parents letting pre-schoolers make decisions on what they will wear, what they want for dinner and what goes in the shopping trolley ... and schools giving young children the idea that the school should be run their way (that's how many children processs the idea of Pupil Voice), it's no wonder that more and more children are having difficulties accepting demands from adults, whether they be parents or teachers.
  7. I suppose student voice can be useful in developing understanding of the idea that you can't always get what you want. I'm sure that most of my generation understood that before they ever set foot in a school though. As usual schools are being asked to solve somebody else's problem. I do think that you have interpreted Tom Bennett's post in a different way to me though. It didn't look to me as if he thinks you shouldn't listen to children, and you seem to be interpreting his words to make them mean something that is easier for you to argue against than what he actually said. There's a name for that isn't there?
    As I see it, Tom said we should listen to children but ultimately we, not they, are the ones responsible for making decisions which have their best interests at heart. (I believe this is part of our duty of care). You are arguing against the proposition that we should ignore (or not even bother to find out) what children say or think. I know you could probably accuse him of the same thing the other way round, but after a quarter century of experience I think his view has a better fit with reality.
  8. Oh and by the way yes I have just used argument from authority the last sentence, and a pretty weak one at that as I relied on years of experience rather than any accredited expertise.

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