Pupil participation in decision making and the role of school councils in primary schools: An exploration of the views of school council members and staff.
Date: 30 May 2017
University of Exeter
DEdPsy in Educational, Child and Community Psychology
Abstract A child’s right to have their opinion in decisions which affect them given due regard forms the basis of Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (1989) which was ratified by the UK government in 1991. The term ‘pupil voice’ has been used by schools as a way of encapsulating this and a ...
Abstract A child’s right to have their opinion in decisions which affect them given due regard forms the basis of Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) (1989) which was ratified by the UK government in 1991. The term ‘pupil voice’ has been used by schools as a way of encapsulating this and a survey in 2007 suggested that 92% of primary schools in England and Wales had a school council in place (Whitty & Wisby, 2007a). The aim of the current study was to elicit the views of key stage 2 school councillors and staff members about the role of school councils and pupil participation in decision making. In Phase One staff from three primary schools in the south west of England were interviewed about school councils and pupil participation in school. Data were analysed using thematic analysis and three themes emerged. In Phase Two 16 key stage 2 pupils, who were members of their own school’s school council, took part. Mixed gender paired interviews were conducted to elicit their views about their role and pupil participation in decision making in their school. Interviews were followed by five weekly group sessions involving participatory activities to support and develop their understanding of their role as school councillors. Pupils from each school council had input into the topics explored in this part of the research. Findings from Phase One suggest that staff regard school councils as being positive for the children involved but they differ in opinion in terms of the impact they have on the wider school population. Findings from Phase Two suggest school council members value being responded to by adults when they have been asked to express their views about a specific decision. School council members also perceive trust as being one of the main factors involved in their election by peers. Findings are discussed in relation to recent research about participation in decision making, the effectiveness of school councils and the importance of a participatory ethos within schools. Overall findings lead to the proposal of a model for use in schools to support the participation of pupils in decision making. The model is based on the existing model conceptualising Article 12 of the UNCRC by Lundy (2007) but incorporates a shared participatory ethos and adult response as required factors. Limitations of the current study as well as suggestions for future research and implications for EP practice are discussed.
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