Out of the toilet and in to the classroom


Working with primary school councils in Oldham and Haringey over the last two days I ran in to the same issue that so many schools and their councils struggle with: can we get beyond talking about the toilets?

The simple suggestion I gave to them is to split their School Council in to Action Teams. This ensures that their school councils look beyond the physical and start to deal with all the things that are going on in their schools. We find these Action Teams cover most aspects of what goes on in school:

Learning

Learning
  • Helping everyone to enjoy learning
  • Trips
  • Bringing people in to the school
  • What happens in class

Relationships

Relationships
  • Helping people have fun
  • Stopping bullying
  • Making school friendly

Fundraising & Events

Fundraising
  • Finding out what needs money
  • Making money
  • Putting on competitions, shows and special days

Environment

Environment
  • Saving energy
  • Recycling
  • Making sure the school looks good
  • Getting fun equipment

Communication

Communication
  • Letting people know what’s going on
  • Getting ideas
  • Assemblies
  • Website
  • Noticeboard

If you just want to have four Action Teams you could miss out Communication, but then you need to make sure all other groups share responsibility for this and report back on their communication each time.

So all items brought up from class council meetings, suggestion boxes, from the school council blog, etc. get allocated to the most appropriate Action Team by the Chair and Secretary (with support from the Link Teacher if they need it). The Action Teams then need to meet to discuss those issues and figure out which ones they can take action on (if nothing has been suggested for an Action Team, they need to seek something out). These actions are then what is taken to the full School Council meeting for ratification. You could fit in this extra meeting by replacing every other School Council meeting with Action Team meetings or by having the Action Team meetings for the first third or half of the time allocated for the School Council meeting.

The school council meeting becomes a way to co-ordinate all the pupil-led activities and to check that no actions will adversely affect any pupils. So it has a standing agenda of:

Item Person Time
1 Apologies (from people who can’t make the meeting) Secretary 1 min
2 Check last meeting’s minutes (to make sure they’re correct) Chair 2 mins
3 Learning Action Team

  • Report on actions from last time (matters arising)
  • What we are going to do this time (for agreement)
LAT Chair 5 mins
4 Relationships Action Team

  • Report on actions from last time (matters arising)
  • What we are going to do this time (for agreement)
RAT Chair 5 mins
5 Fundraising and Events Action Team

  • Report on actions from last time (matters arising)
  • What we are going to do this time (for agreement)
FaEAT Chair 5 mins
6 Environment Action Team

  • Report on actions from last time (matters arising)
  • What we are going to do this time (for agreement)
EAT Chair 5 mins
7 Communication Action Team

  • Report on actions from last time (matters arising)
  • What we are going to do this time (for agreement)
CAT Chair 5 mins
8 Any other business (A.O.B.) Chair 2 mins
9 Date of next meeting Secretary 1 min

This way the meetings should be focussed on action, should discuss more than just what colour to paint the toilets and be quicker – as the reports are not for in-depth discussion, just for ratification.

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