Steps towards a Smart School Council
As any regular reader of our blog will know, we’ve been developing our new Smart School Council model over the last few months and its what we’re now encouraging all of our schools to put in place. On Monday I was running training for 25 school council co-ordinators in Rochdale and I introduced this model to them. They were all really excited about it, but understandably many of them were daunted by the prospect of trying to introduce something genuinely whole school.
The question arose: where do we start?
This is really important for us as an organisation too. Just as teachers and TAs are concerned about their capacity to lead on and support this new model, so are we. We’re a small team and we can’t provide the level of support we think full implementation of this model needs in all the schools that are keen to get it going: keen to really involve all of their pupils in active learning about democracy.
The aim for any school has to be getting the full system up and running. If any one part is missing it’s just not going to have the desired learning outcomes. It may be about universal voice, but no action; it could be about taking action, but only for certain pupils. However, getting all of this going at once is a very big ask, so this is our first attempt to break it down into smaller steps.
Step 1: Set your learning outcomes
The first thing you absolutely have to do is ask the questions:
- Why do we have a school council/pupil voice?
- What do we want pupils to learn through it?
- Which pupils do we want to learn these things?
You might want to put these into a Smart School Council policy (see below).
Step 2: Options
There are three core elements to a Smart School Council, your next step is to choose one and develop it. Then as time, enthusiasm and support allows to move on to the next and then the third. Which order you tackle these in is up to you.
Option 1: Class meetings
Start having weekly, 15-minute class meetings at the same time and day each week. Follow a set format so pupils get used to doing things in this way:
- Feedback about from the decision we made last week (what has happened as a result)
- This week’s question: split into small groups (4s) to discuss and agree an answer
- New ideas and issues: again discussed in small groups before being suggested
Support different pupils to chair and take simple notes so everyone has a go.
If getting this going across the whole school is not possible, start it in your class, model it and encourage the practice to spread across the school.
Option 2: Communication Team
Every team, including school councils, rest on effective communication. Turn your elected school council into a Communication Team by giving each member a communication role and helping them to come up with a communication plan. The plan is simple:
- What are they updating (newsletter, noticeboard, etc.)?
- What kinds of things do they include?
- How often do they do it?
Their roles might include:
Option 3: Action Teams
Action Teams allow anyone to get actively involved in making changes in their school. Allowing Action Teams to flourish will require some time and support, but also a willingness on your part to step back. They may be slow to start and many may initially falter and even fail, but they have the possibility to teach students a huge amount, as long as you resist the urge to step in and ‘save the day’/do things for them.
You’ll need to find a regular time and place that pupils who want to get involved can come to work on their Action Teams. This might mean that you will be in your classroom every Tuesday lunchtime and anyone in an Action Team can come and meet there to plan and do their activities. You can provide them with resources to help them plan their projects and a little advice, but the more you leave it to them, the better.
These resources may help you out along the way: