The role of Student Voice at Quintin Kynaston
Hi my name is Lorik and I am a student at Quintin Kynaston Community Academy. I have written a short blog about the SV department at QK and its role within the school.
Student Voice has played a pivotal role in influencing my views, attributes and my thought process towards not only other subject areas but also aspects of life. I can honestly say that it has drastically changed the manner that I use to approach tasks, projects and problems in general. Student Voice at Quintin Kynaston is a well- established faculty that has assimilated itself for many years now within the school ethos and environment. Many students at QK now perceive the SV department as an integral part of their education; a forum that they are able to utilise in order to enrich and enhance themselves but also their future portfolio. As a member of the Student Voice department, in particular the school council, I have seen myself progress through each phase, up until now where I hold the position as Chair.
My SV journey began early in year8 when I was selected through an interview process. Since then my profile within SV and the school has grown to a great extent. Not only have I formed a strong bond or rapport with all teachers but I am also viewed by other students as someone who is part of the Student Voice department. Parallel to this, I have been given the opportunity to attend numerous conferences about Student Voice where I led presentations and spoke about the importance of student leadership (E.g.: prefecting, mentoring, community leadership, School Council, and others).
The School Council at QK follows a similar universal system that most school councils do, however it also has other strands which contribute to its overall success. In every year group there are two class representatives which are responsible to relay issues to the school. The two class representatives will then forward their concerns to two year representatives. These year representatives meet once a week during the year reps School Council meetings to forward their suggestions or concerns of how to ensure the council works effectively to resolve these issues. All students are accepted and given a say in Student Voice. During my time here at QK, the SV department has ensured that they give all students an opportunity. If a student has not been accepted as a year councillor or a class representative they should not feel discouraged. Here at QK we ensure that students are allocated to other strands or branches of the SV ‘umbrella.’ Whether that is the Community participation group, playground pals or the young librarian group. There are a plethora of opportunities for students to get involved at QK! As a helpful tip, if you are a secondary school it will be much easier if the school has a teacher who is responsible for the overall management of this group. As the School Council progresses and completes projects that have been set, eventually the teacher will be able to elect a chair and liaise directly with him/her. Projects can be as small as conducting lesson observations or as important as interviewing a new deputy head, director of learning or a head of department. These are all potential projects which can be organised by the school in order to kick-start your School Council voyage. Student Voice does not only support the school but it also equips the students with skills that they necessitate when they apply and go onto university. For example, being able to question a project critically. The SV is a feature which all universities support and appreciate. The students will most importantly have an opinion and a view about something they would like to improve or set-up, and it is this which is the most rewarding.
The school council at QK must be Smart. I mean how many school councils can say that they were bestowed with the Speakers school council award at the Houses of Commons? Let’s not forget, with awards like this being awarded to a council there must be a sheer amount of work that has been completed in order to be recognised on a national scale. QK won the award because of a ‘Community project’ that we created where its sole purpose was to break the negative barrier between the local community and our school. We did this through exhibiting QK’s talent through drama, sports, art, I.T., business and the Student Voice. The Student Voice at QK is SMART because it challenges the school council with various projects and sets targets to the students. Every member of the SV council at QK is motivated to surpass these targets and go beyond the standard expectations!
During my primary years as a member of the school council, being able to listen was a fundamental skill that I learnt and consolidated over the last few years. It is imperative that a school councillor listens and acknowledges what their peers are saying and build upon the suggestion or feedback given. As I have progressed, I am now a confident speaker who is able to articulate a message at conferences and events without being pestered by the evil butterflies. Beyond this, with my new role as Chair I am able to now view the council in a complete different dimension. Being a chair is much harder than I thought! But as Bernice Johnson Reagon has said: ‘Life’s challenges are not supposed to paralyze you; they’re supposed to help you discover who you are.’ I am a person which embraces challenges and this penultimate step forward as I progress into the sixth form is a challenge which I will rise upon. In correspondence with these attributes, there comes the responsibility of creating agendas, delegating roles and giving a termly review to the Senior Leadership team about the school Council. Through issuing these roles to students it stimulates them to do well not only in their academia but also to think of innovative ideas or strands that they will be able to manage (focusing mainly on year 11 and sixth form).
Here’s some advice for school councils:
- Depending what stage your school council is at, you should always aim to start as a small group and gradually expand by forming new sub-committee’s or other strands of the department. It is helpful to use ‘Student Voice’ as a name which encompasses all the different strands including the school council. However, it is also original to create your personalised Student Voice name if you can think of one!
- Ensure that your school council has a fair and representative process of application. One example can be publishing a school council vacancy on a board or in assembly or with social media now at hand, you could use the school website. From there, the students could write a letter of application and then be invited for an interview after school or during break and this prepares them for not only the school council but interviews for the future.
- First and foremost, if you do not have a functioning school council it is helpful to begin with potential projects that students could get involved with! Unfortunately, if your school council does not do much, this must be due to the lack of attention and support that has been devoted to the group. It is a demanding role to be an SV manager or co-ordinator; however you’re ensuring that the voice of the students is being represented in some form or way. Equally, as the co-ordinator or Student chair do not set unrealistic targets which cannot be met by the collective of students. Ensure that the ideas that are being generated are valid and always direct the topic of conversation so the younger students are aware of what to do or think about. Most school councils in my opinion are ‘boring’ or are dormant due to the lack of ideas which can be translated into projects or are consistently failing to ‘follow through’ and complete the project. These ideas need to be regarded; as an institution you can then choose if they are possible or not. Using the SV to get the local police for example to speak about crime and how students can preclude themselves from getting involved, will pose as a challenging project for the council. Conversely if you are not there yet, focus on projects in house. For instance, fundraising is a recurring theme that most school councils start off with, or you could begin by asking the students about the curriculum and if they enjoy it or not and how the school can improve it. Another alternative idea is piloting a ‘reading project’ in order to stimulate students to read – these are all potential projects that can be used to fuel your school council to success.
- After all the hard work, ensure that the students are recognised! Being awarded with a certificate and a prize is always something that we students love and regard highly of. Give older students the opportunity to lead strands of the SV department once they have developed a strong understanding about the SV and what their role is within school. Encourage students who are not as well behaved to also get involved. For example through becoming a prefect during lunch or after school. The main message is: ‘attempt to get involved a range of students.’
The Smart School Council Community is a great initiative that has been set-up. I think this community has a bright prospect ahead of them. The first stage of this community is to ensure that as many students, teachers, educational officers are involved and are aware of the work that this organisation does! While also providing resources to partner schools, this community could also publish some of the work that the councils do through videos, images and written text to enable other councils to obtain ideas which they may be able to adapt in their schools. In the future, The Smart School Council can also act as a main hub where councils can communicate with one another and attend meetings and potentially go national!
I wish all students good luck in their commencing exams this summer and for you teachers I hope that I have given you a brief idea of how important a school council can be and its role within school institutions.
I will aim to post as many articles relating to Student voice and other topics as frequently as possible.
Lorik – Quintin Kynaston Community Academy (Year 11)