Popular LTA Youth programme launches in secondary schools LTA
How the HUE HD Pro can ease teacher workload and stress HUE
How technology solutions from ASUS could have a transformative effect on your school ASUS
Teachers need their time back – Technology can give it to them IRIS
KS4 by iAchieve iAchieve
Oxford University Press Courses
Ask young people for their opinion, by all means – but never, ever lie to them about the extent of their influence
Popular LTA Youth programme launches in secondary schools
Radical Revision GCSE checklist – 10 top tips to get motivated
Cultural vandalism – Why the arts shouldn’t be a ‘lower priority’ in schools
KS3 Science – Y9 mini scheme of learning
‘Student voice’. The phrase alone generally will cause a fairly binary response if mentioned in a public forum such as Twitter – and if you want an entertaining read on the potentially negative aspects, I do recommend Tom Bennett’s blog of 2010 called Excuse me do you mind if I teach you?.
To me, it’s an issue that poses three big questions:
I am certainly not against our young people having an input into how Passmores Academy improves and develops, but I do think that ‘developing student voice’ is something that runs the risk of being a job to do because we think we should.
Our focus is to develop student leadership. We think it is vital to ensure our young people understand that they do have an impact on the school and wider community, and that they take responsibility for their own actions and their consequences.
The key to this has been a clear discussion with the students about the scope of their leadership and input. I simply do not see the issue in explaining to our young people that there are some things that happen in school where decisions have to be made that don’t directly include consulting them. When we are honest and explain that, they completely understand it.
Hopefully they are all aware that I, and the other staff, have the best interests of the school as a whole and for them individually in the forefront of our minds when at work anyway, so it is not a huge leap for them to accept this.
Ultimately, then, we all agree that not everything benefits from student involvement – and to focus on the aspects of school life that do. Our prefects, for example, each sign up to a specific responsibility – Community, Curriculum, Charity, Rewards or Environment – as these are areas where we and they feel they can inform our decision making and provide leadership of the student body.
So, for example, if we are wishing to carry out some improvement work around bullying we would think about the information and insight that best comes from the students of Passmores and work with the ‘Community’ prefects to ensure we get the most relevant and important information available.
This may mean that they go and talk to other students and come back to us with feedback, or that they actually lead the work themselves and make the improvements alongside us.
Some people may see this as a lip-service approach but I vehemently disagree. I think young people quickly see through the charade of asking their opinion but then nothing changing, and I believe this is a great deal worse than not involving them at all.
Developing students’ ‘citizenship’ is important, but giving them the message that although we have asked we are going to ignore you, without any further explanation, really doesn’t help that happen. In fact, I’d go as far as to say that it can actually prevent them from engaging with democracy and community improvement, as they will develop a ‘what’s the point?’ attitude.
Young people understand that there are thousands of decisions made during their school life that affect them and that we, as the responsible adults, will normally be the final arbiters of those decisions. But they also are delighted to speak up when we can we use their unique perspective to inform that process.
I work for and with our students; they are fully aware of that, and whilst they are always willing to offer their insight, they accept that sometimes, the decision making comes with the responsibility I have.
Vic Goddard is headteacher at Passmores Academy, as seen on Channel 4’s Educating Essex, and is the author of The Best Job in the World; you can follow him at @vicgoddard.
In partnership with
Make sure your assessment is effective with these expert insights.
LTA Youth, the free flagship programme from the LTA which has 2021 US Open Champion...
If you know me, you’ll know that I absolutely adore children’s literature and seek to use books whenever, wherever and however I can within my teaching in the classroom, and also...
These activity sheets from Teach it Outside task children with creating animal skeletons out of sticks.
This supports KS2 science learning, which can be extended back in the classroom.
A school that aims to adopt a culture of mental health and wellbeing will need a whole-school approach. There are many key stakeholders who all need to be involved and...
We’ve seen how important the arts are to school life, now more than ever – which is...
There are many phonics programmes available for schools, but what should you look for?
A rich vocabulary is a key marker of successful academic outcomes, so how can teachers...
Online platforms and social media can cause security and content issues within schools, but implementing...