Here’ s Reddish Vale Technology College’s approach to student voice, focusing on the ethos of the co-operative movement. You can read more school council case studies/student voice case studies here.
Key benefits of student voice:
- Community-minded and socially aware students who want to take an active role in the school and local area.
- Highly politically-literate students who are driven and keen to manage their own projects.
- Improved relationships between students, staff and students, and the community in general.
- Improved results in the school; students with five A* to C GCSEs has increased by 31 per cent in the last four years.
- An ethos built around social justice and the principles of the Co-operative that helps everyone to get along and resolve arguments.
“It’s about changing the world.”
Co-operative Champion, Year 10
- Provide a wide range of ways for students to get involved in school life – only having a school council is not enough. If you can do this, a wide range of pupils will become involved.
- ‘Hooks’ to get students involved do not just have to centre around content areas (for example the environment or economics), but students with a particular skill (like photography or design) should be encouraged to participate too.
- Schools should approach everyone to get involved, do not discriminate. Although you cannot force students to get involved, you can remind them and keep approaching them – you never know when they would like to do something.
- Use something like the Co-operative’s values to involve everyone in a simple and accessible ethos. Student voice and participation becomes far easier when important values are embedded and understood across the school and between students, teachers and governors.
- Get students involved at the heart of the community, not in isolation of it. The resources and challenges of the local community present real – not simulated – educational opportunities for student voice and action, but also help young people with certain qualifications.
The school originally trained seven students as Co-operative Champions, who have now successfully trained more than 60 students across the school. The Co-operative ethos has helped to inspire students who do not usually get involved to do so.
Co-operative Champions have a jumper with a special logo on so they are recognisable around the school. They get involved in a wide range of events and projects and see their role as “making the world a better place”. They are also working on several partnerships with other schools across the world, like Reddish Vale’s sister school in Kiafeng, China.
ROC Cafe takes place every Friday night after school and gives students a safe space to relax, meet new people, and finish the week off on a positive note. ROC stands for “Redeeming Our Communities”, and the cafe opened in April 2010. Over 70 students attend most weeks, and students have had a strong role in planning and running the cafe. As one school council member put it:
“ROC Cafe has been a great success. Students have a good time and leave their troubles at the door.”
School council member, Year 9
The school also has a traditional school council model, with year councils. This has an important role in school improvement and influence school decisions. This model tends to attract students who are more interested in parliamentary-style school improvement.
Ethiopian Coffee Collective
An example of one of many student-led co-operative projects: The school buys coffee directly from a coffee producer in Ethiopia, and sells it in the school. Students are learning important marketing and co-operation skills from this project, and are working hard to see it go from strength to strength.
The school works closely with, and for, the community in Reddish. This improves education opportunities for students, as well as the community itself. The school is also an important resource for the community – Reddish is an area of high socio-economic deprivation, and young people are involved with around 100 of the local areas 150 small businesses.
About the school
Reddish Vale Technology College is a larger than average mixed comprehensive school serving an area of relative disadvantage. The college has had specialist technology status since 1995 and has been a full service extended school since 2005. The majority of the college population are of White British heritage and few students are at the early stages of learning English.
The percentage of pupils eligible for free school meals is higher than the national average, as is the percentage of those with learning difficulties and/or disabilities. The population of the college is stable, with relatively few students joining or leaving the college after entering in Year 7. Attendance is in line with the national average and better than many similar schools.
Involver conducted these case studies for the Office of the Children’s Commissioner in 2011, as part of a project to encourage schools to involve their students in decision making