What makes a successful school council?

Well, first you need to define what you mean by ‘success’; this isn’t a semantic point, it really is the first thing you need to do. If you’ve never really considered it, you’ll fall into the same trap that many schools have and just assume that whatever your school council is doing well is what success looks like.

  • “Our school council raised over £3,000 for charity.”
  • “They were involved in revising our homework policy.”
  • “They set up a tuck shop.”

Whilst each of these things is impressive, do they really tell you that the school council is doing it’s job? No.

Why not?

Because, if you’ll excuse the business-speak, these are the outputs not the outcomes. In educational terms: they don’t tell you what was learnt through the process and they don’t tell you who learnt it.

When we ask school council co-ordinators why they have a school council, the answers are around character, values, skills and citizenship, not school improvement:

  • Learning resilience
  • Learning how to work as a team
  • Learning negotiation and collaboration
  • Understanding that their views are important
  • Understanding that everyone else’s are just as important
  • Understanding that change takes effort

When we start to frame the success of our school councils in this way, we can see that what they do is less important that how pupils are involved.

So to create a successful school council we need:

  1. A structure that teaches skills and involves the widest range of pupils in learning them.
  2. It needs to regularly involve all pupils, not just in voting, but in discussion, compromise and problem-solving.
  3. It needs to give all pupils the chance and support to take action, not just those who already know how.
  4. It needs to be possible within the constraints of your existing school day.
  5. This requires understanding on the part of all staff that for all children to benefit, they all need to give it their support.

Creating a system like this that involves all students and that all staff can get behind is a big job, which is why we have developed a model for you, the Smart School Council. It pulls together the best elements of school councils we’ve worked with over the last thirteen years in a way which requires little extra effort from your colleagues but gives much more to your pupils.


You can access all the tools you need to make your school council smart by beoming a premium member:

Premium Membership

Or come along to a Smart School Council Masterclass CPD.

Smart School Council Masterclass – CPD for teachers


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