Involving very young children in pupil voice

The previous two ideas have suggested a couple of ways to improve how meetings are chaired and broaden the scope of issues that meetings cover. But how do you involve the youngest children in your school? Sitting them in a meeting, no matter how well run, can be difficult. Here’s a way to get them involved and learning how to participate.

The issue

Including Reception and KS1 (children aged 4-7) in school council meetings is difficult for them and everyone else.

The suggestion

Rather than having children of this age in meetings ask teachers in their classes to set aside 15-20 minutes per week when members of the school council can come and ask them a question. This is how it would then work:

  1. School council decides on one question to ask Reception and KS1 on an issue that directly involves them. This same question will be asked to all Reception and KS1 classes.
  2. Just before the allotted time Reception and KS1 teachers should organise their classes into groups of 3-5.
  3. Two members of the school council go to each Reception and KS1 class to introduce the question and record responses. This is what they should do in each class:
    1. Introduce themselves. (30 seconds)
    2. Remind the class what question they were asked last time. (1 min)
    3. Explain what has happened as a result of their views from last week. (2 mins)
    4. Explain this week’s question. (1 min)
    5. Get all groups to discuss the question and come up with an answer they all agree on. (5 mins)
    6. Get one person from each group to stand up and explain the decision they came to. (5 mins)
    7. This should be written down or recorded by the school council reps – the easiest way to do this is by video camera or voice recorder.
    8. Thank the class and explain when they will be back. (30 seconds)
    9. The school council reps go over the views of class and summarise them in a couple of sentences.
    10. These summarised views are reported back to the school council to form the basis of their decision, or to feed in to it.

The outcome

Young children have the opportunity to genuinely input in to decisions that affect them.

They start to practice skills of: expressing opinions, compromise, taking turns, reporting back and chairing.

Additional ideas

You could create a more direct democratic structure by asking everyone to vote after their little discussions, and recording these votes and aggregating them across the school.

It is very helpful for the school council reps to have a script to follow. This gives them confidence and ensures that each class is being treated uniformly.

You can also start introducing the concept of a chair person, whose job it is to make sure everyone gets a chance to speak.

Try to make sure that a different person from each small group feeds back each week so all have a chance to practice this. The same should be done with chairing. This can be achieved by having children in the same small groups each week. Within each group people should be numbered. In week 1, all the 1s report back, in week 2, the 2s report back, and so on.

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