School council and student voice case study: Barming Primary


Here’s the final case study in our series of school council case studies. A great example of how school councils can drive school improvement from Barming Primary in Kent.

Key benefits:

  • Better relationships between students, teachers and governors. There is a strong feeling that they are all working together and the school council helps the school to achieve this.
  • Every student wants to have a say in how the school runs and school councillors have a high profile.
  • Students are better prepared to understand and overcome difficult issues. They learn that that helping to improve the school is not always easy and quick, and that it is not just about moaning. For example, the school council are concerned about the relationship between students and the dinner ladies. They have organised a meeting to try to improve things.

Top advice:

  • Link the students with the governors. Put a standing item on the governing body’s agenda to look at the school council’s minutes and to hear from the children.
  • To strengthen this link, ask a member of the governing body to be responsible for going to school council meetings. It helps give everyone a rounded experience of the school by sharing different perspectives.
  • As headteacher, do not attend school council meetings. Students will be less frank and less willing to say what they feel. The headteacher at Barming Primary School meets after each school council meeting with the chair, secretary and treasurer to understand what was agreed and discussed.
  • Do not shy away from difficult issues, but use them as learning points for all.
  • Give the school council a budget. Even if it is small, it shows a commitment to the school council and their ability to make realistic choices.

Methods used:

School council

The school council meets regularly and plays an important role in the life of the school. School councillors have a high profile and feature on a prominent display in the school hall. The school council is very popular and the school councillors talk with pride when they discuss what they’ve been working on.

Recent projects include getting more signs in the school to help students know where they are going, mirrors in the school toilets and the relationship between students and the dinner ladies. The school also ran a very successful ‘Apple Day’ which celebrated local varieties of apples and invited the community into the school. The school council is leading on other fruit-themed days using local produce.

The school council has a budget of £50 a year, but the school has decided to raise this to £100.

Strong system of class councils

Class councils regularly talk about ideas and issues that they have in the school. For the school council meetings, they have to come up with their two most important ideas that they would like to be discussed. Two students from each class attend the school council meeting and describe their two ideas.

Regular circle time

Regular circle time helps to boost students’ confidence and ability to talk in front of a group. This strengthens the class councils and school council meetings.

Governor interaction

A governor attends the school council meetings, and there is a standing item on the agenda for all governors meetings to get an update on the school council, and to look at their minutes.

About the school:

Barming Primary School is larger than average. Several significant changes in staff have taken place in the past 18 months, including the headteacher. The school has more boys than girls. Most pupils are White British. The proportion of other minority ethnic heritages is below the national average and includes pupils from a variety of Asian or Black British or Black African heritages. A significant minority of these pupils speak more than one language but few are at the early stages of learning English as an additional language.

The proportion of pupils with special educational needs and/or learning disabilities is broadly average, as is the proportion with a statement of special educational needs. The proportion of pupils known to be eligible for free school meals is below average. In the Early Years Foundation Stage, there are two Reception classes. The school has several awards reflecting its commitment to healthy lifestyles.

 


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

 

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