Look how far we’ve come …
As Young Trainees for Smart School Councils Community we have come so far since our start in September last year.
At the start, I was terrified of taking an icebreaker with a group of children. After a few months, and in my last session at Isleworth Town Primary, I led two sessions myself – with thirty children in each!
We have been to a range of schools including; Cardinal Wiseman School, Hill-view Primary School, Oakland School , Lordship Lane Primary School and Isleworth Town Primary School. At these schools the Young Trainees have been giving hour long sessions showing students how to run their very own class meetings. In total we have trained six hundred young people from September to December, with a hundred and sixty of those coming from our local area of Haringey. This has topped the previous record and our original aim of the last group of Young Trainees who worked with four hundred young people.
The session consists of an introduction of who we are and that we have come from the charity Smart School Councils Community and moves on to engage the children with an icebreaker, which we chose as the Crisp Game. The crisp game starts by asking everyone their favourite flavour of crisps, and then moves on to asking the children to decide on one favourite flavour between pairs, then a four or their whole table. The idea behind this being that they learn how important communication, compromise and working as a team is, and that these skills will be needed to effectively run their smart school council. The Young Trainees then move on to showing through a role play how the meeting is run with the Smart School Councils web – tool. It is especially important to show what the Leader and Reporter of the class meeting does, as each week the children will take it in turns to play these roles. The role of the leader consists of reading the question and options off the board, but also recapping the question, decision made and action the school has decided to take from last week’s meeting. The reporter inputs the information from the meeting into the tool, with simple step by step prompts. The next step is encouraging the students to take their very first class meeting, asking for two volunteers for the roles of leader and reporter.
The script for the hour long session took some time to plan and write, as we had to make sure that the information was portrayed effectively from year groups 3 up to sixth form, but also that it was made to seem simple so that the children would feel at ease and want take their class meetings from the following week. The trickiest part seemed to be outlining the roles in the role play, especially between the class leader and the narrator. The narrator’s job was to jump in and explain a little more what was happening at each point of the meeting, however this seemed to clash with the Leader reading out what was on the board. We managed to sort it by deciding that the Leader would simply read what was on the board, as this was exactly what the children would be doing in their class meetings. I thoroughly enjoyed holding these sessions especially seeing the children’s excitement at the prospect of being in charge of their very own class meetings. I was surprised at how important young people still find holding their own meetings and having a say in their schools. This generation is often criticised for being largely apathetic, but I would now challenge this after seeing the excitement generated from our sessions. This excitement along with the feedback we have had from teachers after the sessions; with all the schools wanting to take our web-tool on and hold class meetings weekly, shows the positive work the Young Trainees have succeeded in doing. I think it is important to use these positive reactions as further case studies for future schools to see how simple and effective a 15 minute weekly class meeting can be as part of their school council model. It successfully involves the whole school, enabling everyone in the school to have a voice. Instead of a school council being based on children being voted for, which often results in a popularity contest or the teachers choosing ‘suitable’ candidates, this allows everyone especially those who wouldn’t normally get involved to have a say. It also teaches worthwhile skills that can be used throughout the curriculum, such as public speaking, how to chair a meeting and how to effectively take minutes or notes. These are all skills employers looking favourably on.
The skills I have learnt as a Young Trainee with Smart School Councils Community has helped me secure my current job at Stemette’s, where I am now managing their schools programme. Our mission is to inspire the next generation of females into Science, Technology, Engineering and Maths (STEM) fields by showing them the amazing women already in STEM via a series of panel events, hackathons, exhibitions, and mentoring schemes. I specifically organise our school events which include our Stem In A Day’s which are held in a sponsor’s office. These days give the girls the opportunity to interact with senior women in STEM roles (Big Stemettes), for us to teach the girls some tech skills, to help girls explore a STEM career by designing and building their own solution to a problem, then pitching it to a panel of judge and most importantly introducing girls to the real STEM industry environment.
Leila , Young Trainee