Developing the pupil voice falls under the four capacities of the Curriculum for Excellence, helping young people to become Successful Learners, Confident Individuals, Responsible Citizens and Effective Contributors. Specifically, it looks at developing the attributes and capacities of making reasoned evaluations, secure values and beliefs, developing and communicating beliefs and a commitment to participate responsibly in the life of the school.
In practice, sparqs has developed a series of resources aimed at developing the capacity, on a consultative basis, of pupil councils across Scotland. Although pupil councils are not the only way young people at schools can have their voice heard, with sparqs’ ability and experience designing representative systems and training representatives, we can add real value to the pupil council of a school through our training and support package.
The package aims to develop the capacity of students involved in pupil councils, enabling them to participate more effectively in the public life of the school. However, it is not enough to develop just the pupils themselves, as we take a holistic approach to bringing through the pupil voice.
This means that our development offering encompasses facilitation of meetings between staff and pupils to decide the remit of the council and to iron out issues that have hindered the development of the pupil voice in the past. It also includes group training for pupils and professional development for staff. sparqs recognises the central role teachers have in schools, managing not only the curriculum but the welfare and development of their pupils. With this in mind, our professional development training looks to help teachers bring out this expertise in the field of developing the pupil voice.
In March 2016 we carried out a trial consultancy package with Braeview Academy, a secondary school in Dundee, having trained the pupil council and met with staff to plan out ‘next steps’ for the school in terms of putting the pupil voice at the centre. Since the initial visit we have returned to the school several times working in partnership with the school on various projects. The most recent visit was in May 2017, to train newly-elected pupil council reps and to work with the students and staff on setting an agenda for meaningful discussion for the academic year ahead.
We presented the Pupil Voice Project, with Braeview hosting, to the City Wide Pupil Council (CWPC) in Dundee in December 2016 with a view to expanding the work. The CWPC all agreed on an action to have sparqs return to Dundee in August 2017 to run a full 2-hour training session with all of the new members for the council. We will then identify various themes and work around these with the CWPC throughout academic term 2017/18.
As well as working with the City Wide Pupil Council in the Dundee area, we have agreed to work with Broughton High School in Edinburgh as well as a further school in Glasgow. We are also actively looking for new schools to expand the project further.
Another aspect of our work on pupil voice includes the development of the pupil voice in colleges where school pupils are hosted to study particular subjects. Integrating the pupil voice in colleges into established college student representative structures is a challenge which requires co-ordination across the students’ association, the college and the school, as well as with the pupils themselves. We offer a consultancy package to colleges looking for support in this area, as well as facilitation for bringing through the pupil voice in focus groups or representative clusters.
For further information on this area of work, contact Morven Stewart.