Little Heath School in Reading is a school that we’ve worked with for a while now. We were really pleased to be invited to their annual student voice conference a few weeks back.
Little Heath is a great example of the benefits that can be gained when young people are given trust and responsibility to influence core areas of their education. The school has six student voice groups, each of which have a special job in the school. These are:
- The Building group (looking at school environment)
- What makes a good lesson group (teaching and learning)
- The Independent Learning group (trying to define independent learning)
- Safe to learn group (Anti-bullying)
- STARS project (students as researchers)
The school council’s job is to coordinate these groups, with the help of the Student Voice Leaders. The Student Voice Leaders led the whole day from start to finish, and the school’s commitment by taking around 150 students (from the various groups) out of school, to a conference venue was great. They were able to get a lot done in a short space of time. Very impressive!
The secret to Little Heath’s success in getting so many young people involved stems from three things, I think.
- Firstly, culture and ethos in the school – it’s clear from the style of relationships that teachers genuinely want to hear what students think, will take it seriously, and want to set up ways to encourage this more formally. Staff are willing to run with their ideas, and recognise that good school democracy/citizenship is often a bit of a step into the unknown. They also understand that trusting young people is not losing power – it’s helping everyone to work together in the same direction.
- Secondly, with so many different groups, a school council, and student voice leaders, they are able to get a wide range of young people involved because there is a wide range of ways to be involved – pretty simple really!
- Thirdly, the priority given to student voice is more than just words; it’s a member of staff’s job to support and facilitate it. Jon Linz, the very talented and passionate student voice coordinator, has dedicated time in his week to support this work.
Anyway, enough from me – here’s more from the students themselves: