Top 10 ideas to improve your school council 2016

At the start of a new academic year, it’s good to think about how you can improve your school council to involve more students and be easier to run.

The first few weeks back at school after the summer break are a pretty crazy time, and lots of school councils launch right back into running things the way they always have without thinking about how they can improve. Here are ten questions/ideas to help you to think about how you can improve practice, and make your school council smart.

School council election ideas and resources1. Don’t rush straight into an election!

Don’t rush straight into your school council election; candidates might not know what they’re applying for, turnout might be low, and you will have missed a really good opportunity to improve your school council and engage more pupils. So pause for a moment and consider the following questions!

2. Consider what your school wants pupils to learn by having a school council

This is a really useful starting point. Why do you have a school council? What do you want your pupils to learn by having a school council in your primary or secondary school?

Take a moment to think about this. Think about the skills, values or experiences you’d like students to get out of having a school council in your school. It’s likely that you’re thinking of skills or values that you think of important, rather than issues of school improvement e.g ‘changing the behaviour policy’ or ‘improving school food’.

You might be thinking of answers like:

  • Empowerment and ability to make a change
  • Developing confidence and assertiveness
  • Taking responsibility
  • Making their voice heard
  • Learning about democracy

3. Think about who should learn these skills

So you’ve thought of a short list of skills or attitudes that you’d like your students to learn by having a school council in your school. The next question is simple; who do you think should be able to learn these skills? Which students should be involved?

Hopefully this is an easy question to answer. It should be ALL students who should benefit from learning these skills, rather than just a few.

4. Reflect honestly – how well does your current school council develop these skills?

Think about how well your current school council achieves this. Is the learning that you’ve identified in question 1 developed in all students? Or is the learning accessible to a small group in your school? In our experience of working with school councils for over ten years, the learning and skills development are often only accessible to a very small group of students. There might be a whole-school election at the start of the year, but after this:

  • The elected students tend to learn new skills and take part in opportunities. These are often the higher-attaining and more confident students.
  • A lack of structure or support means that they often struggle to represent everyone’s views regularly. Particularly in a large secondary schools.
  • Class council or tutor council meetings don’t usually take place regularly or universally. Even if time is given to this, the lack of support or consistency often means that class teachers or tutors struggle to know what to do.

5. Would you consider an alternative?

Having considered these questions, would you consider an alternative to your current school council structure?

We’ve created a new way to run your school council. This is a Smart School Council that engages all of your students, directly addresses Ofsted requirements around British Values/SMSC/ Prevent, and is easier to run than your current model.


smart_poster_v3 (1)


The Smart School Council model is also truly student led.

Here’s what one primary school council coordinator said about the model:

The model has gone really well. The children across the school lead all the class meetings, and all the class teachers just sit back and let them get on with it. The Year 6s go down and support our year 1 and reception students – every child is involved’ Amy Grove, St. Thomas More Primary School.

Here’s what a secondary school council coordinator said about the model:

Since we started the Smart School Council model in September, it’s had an excellent impact. Before this our school council didn’t really do much and only involved a few students. Now we have class meetings every fortnight in every tutor group led by students. The responses come back through the web tool and our Communication Team deal with them. We’ve got seven or eight Action Teams set up too. It’s really involving the whole school, including lots of students that weren’t involved before. They are learning lots about leadership and democracy that is directly because of this model” Dave Beeston, PE Teacher and Smart School Council Lead, Oxclose Community Academy, Tyne and Wear

6. Join as a premium member

Join up with hundreds of schools across the country who are adopting the model. You can do this here. Premium members can access an online manual which includes a step by step guide on how to implement the model, and get dedicated support from our school council experts.

You could also consider coming along to one of our Smart School Council Masterclasses – a one day CPD training session for school council coordinators to kickstart the model. We have a number of forthcoming training days across the country so click on the link to find out when and where these are.

7. Read up on some case studies

Once you’ve joined up, check out our case studies  to see how other schools have implemented the model. And if you’re in England, find out how the model directly addresses Ofsted requirements around British Values/SMSC.

8. Pitch the model to your Headteachers / SLT

Since the Smart School Council model is a whole-school intervention with whole-school impact, you’re likely to need the agreement of your headteachers/ SLT. In the introduction and set up section of the manual, we have included a range of information, guides and resources to make this easy for you. There are simple briefing guides for head teachers, information about overcoming common questions and impact statistics.

9. Brief or train your key staff

The introduction and set up section also includes the key information to let your colleagues know about the new model and its learning outcomes.

10. Hand over to the students!

Once you’ve got agreement from your head and your colleagues understand the model, that’s when you can skill-up your students to run the model themselves.

We hope this blog post helps you to reflect on how you run things. If you’ve got any questions, just pop them in as a comment below!



  1. Would love to have some guidance on how to co-ordinate a Smart School Council in an infant school please? Children are very young, none verbal and do not realise what changes means etc. – any help please?

    1. That’s a really good question. I think I’ll write a blog post or resource about it very soon, because it’s something that we’re asked a lot.
      As with any Smart School Council you need to go back to the learning outcomes: what do you want the pupils to get out of it, and what will take them there?
      I would think this might be:

      • That they need to listen to one another to come to an agreement
      • That the choices they make have an impact

      To this end, we suggest that when running Class Meetings with KS1, you just do the first bit of the meeting with them. So this reminds them what they talked about last time, shows them what impact their decision had and asks them to make a decision together about this week’s question.
      I would suggest that they work in pairs to come to a decision. We find that with the closed questions, limited options and pressure to come to an agreement most KS1 children are able to come up with reasons for their preference and discuss them with a partner.
      You may want to construct some questions specifically for each class, where the decision they make is something that is enacted immediately so they can see the link from having an opinion to sharing it, coming up with reasons, coming to an agreement and putting it into action. This could be about just about the next activities that they are going to do – rather than making individual choices, they need to agree on something to do together – or what displays they will make and put up in the classroom together.
      Remember what is important is the learning that the children get from it, not what decision they make, or if it looks like a ‘typical school council’ (let alone a town council). It’s up to the class teachers to help them draw out this learning of what is different between just expressing an opinion and coming to an agreement that results in action.

  2. Some great ideas in here. As someone who has worked with Smart School Councils I can thoroughly recommend this approach.

  3. Hi,
    would love to have some help with resources to implement a’ Healthy Schools’, approach. For example a healthy options tuck shop with recipes, produce options from local supermarkets regularly delivered and a drinking water chart for each class plus any other suggestions are welcome too!

  4. Well, to be honest this model is more close to new leadership definition in which we believe that a true leader is one who shares what he/she has while leading. So I would love to apply this model this year in my school and let’s see what we get at the end of the year.

    Thank you so much for making things easier for all, May God make all things easier for you as well,

    Best Regards


Leave a Reply