Greg and I weren’t expecting that we could see a better school council meeting than those we’d already seen in the Czech Republic, but the last school we visited on our tour was the most impressive of the lot.
The ‘Storks’ of Dolní Žandov School have a fantastic structure and flow to their meetings that seemed to engage everyone whilst being really focused on action – they named themselves the Storks after the family of storks that roosts on a chimney over-looking the school. So what made their meeting so special? Well, what was clear was that they had a really good structure that everyone understood which I’ll try to summarise for you.
Before the meeting:
The school council realise that getting certain things in place before the meeting will help the meeting to be a success. They ensure that the school council noticeboard/bulletin is up to date with the most recent school council activities, and that everyone can see the latest information easily.
They also make sure that the minutes and photos from the previous meeting are up on the school council website, as well as the agenda for the coming meeting.
During the meeting:
Here’s a picture of the meeting structure that the school council use each time. Translations below!
The chair (who rotates from meeting to meeting) starts by welcoming everyone to the meeting, and running through any apologies that have been made.
2. A game
The meeting started with a game to get everyone up, moving and having fun together. Once this had run its course, they reflected on what had worked in the game, what had made it hard and how this related to their school council meetings. Importantly, the game achieved all of this in a few minutes and the group were able to move onto the rest of the meetin
3. Tasks from last time
After welcoming everyone to the meeting the Chair went through the tasks that should have been completed. He referred back to the previous minutes and checked that each person had done what they were supposed to. If they hadn’t completed the task (some hadn’t), they were asked why.
4. Class issues
Next, the reps from each class were asked what issues their class had asked them to raise. They started with the youngest students and moved up through the school. What was particularly good about the way they did this was how the Chair questioned the other students. One of the youngest class reps raised the issue of having a greater variety of school dinners.
The Chair initially responded that there were various pressures that the school was under regarding nutritional standards and so on. He then seemed to check himself and rather than kicking the idea into the long grass as he had seemed inclined to do he asked the young rep, “how do you think we could change this?” They came up with a plan to meet the cook and discuss it with her. It continued like this until there was a list of tasks to complete.
5. Splitting up tasks
The group then looked at the long list of tasks that had been created, and made sure that each one had a person to be in charge of it. It took a while to make sure that everything had a name next to it, but it is seen as a really important way to make sure that things get done.
6. Repeating the most important tasks
To ensure that everyone remembers what the most crucial tasks are, the chair runs through the most important of them to help everyone understand. This happens really quickly, but is seen as important to show everyone that their little task fits into a bigger project or idea.
7. Next meeting
The school council have a rotating chair, since they feel it is important for different people to get a chance to facilitate the meeting. It helps students to chair, when they have seen their peers do it. It means that the teachers don’t have to lead the meeting, or commit themselves to do every task either – this is truly student voice and student action!
A really important part of the meeting, that has really helped this school council to get better and better. Each time they spend five minutes asking for comments on what went well, and what could be improved about the meeting. It’s really an open forum for the students and teachers to reflect on how the structure has gone.
Only one issue came up in this meeting; that the game at the start hadn’t gone perfectly well because there were two Nemos – a student hadn’t understood fully and stopped staying ‘Nemo’ and confused the game.
Another thing that they did well:
Everyone had a clear role. Most school councils that are working well, and organise efficient meetings have really clear roles. This school council was no exception, and they had a variety of roles alongside the traditional positions of chair, vice-chair and secretary. You can see these below:
From the top, these role descriptions translate as – photographer, getting people in pairs, in charge of noticeboard, meeting minutes, IT support, cameraman, T-shirt organiser, spokesperson, information officer, vice-chairperson and chairperson!
So thanks to the school for inviting us. Without doubt, one of the best school councils we’ve ever seen!
Asher and Greg