Oaklands School

Jess is Head of Maths and School Council Coordinator at an inner-London secondary school. Here she tells us how they managed to involve their whole school through the Smart School Council.


Please introduce yourself

I’m Jessica Barnecutt, Associate Senior Leader at Oaklands School. Oaklands is a secondary school in Tower Hamlets, London. I’ve been running the school council for about a year and a half.

What was the school council like before you started on the Smart School Council model?

In the past, we had Year Councils. These met every half term and students would get together and discuss their ideas. This involved around 10 students for each year group.

How were you introduced to the Smart School Council model?

I found out about the Smart School Council Model by searching online. It appealed to me because I liked the idea of empowering more students to make the changes that they wanted to see in the school.

Did you introduce it to staff first?

Yeah, I introduced the model to staff at staff briefing.

How did you approach implementation?

We started with Class Meetings in every tutor group across the school. Doing these in 10/15 minutes meant they could fit into this time.

We then started to promote the Action Teams. Different students became involved with the Action Teams that they believed in. Some were involved for a specific length of time, and others have remained active to this day. We then promoted the Action Teams through the Class Meetings so that everyone knew what Action Teams existed.

The Communication Team then meet every week to bring it all together and promote what’s happening. These aren’t meetings were we all sit and have a single discussion, the group just meet in the library and get on with their work

Each Communication Team member has a specific role that they want to do, and myself and the librarian are around in the room to help out if needed.

What’s it been like to implement the model?

We’ve found that some of the Action Teams work brilliantly, and others don’t really get off the ground. I don’t think that this is a problem – it’s a natural part of the model. We help and support new ideas, but importantly we don’t tell people what to do, or put the effort in for them. Failure is okay if you learn from it!

What are you planning to do next?

We are planning to have a regular time when Action Teams can get together to work on things. We’ve found that students can struggle to get as much done without a specific time and place for them to progress their ideas.

How do you think it’s gone so far?

We are pleased with how the students see the role and how active the Communication Team is. They are becoming much more effective at promoting what’s happening, chasing up tutor groups to do their Class Meetings and holding the model together.

What has the impact been on the students in your school?

Students have developed their understanding about lots of different things.

My favourite example is the cake stall that a group of students in an Action Team were organising. The first time they tried to run it, there were only about 10 cakes. There was no table to put them on, no float to give change to people who bought a cake, no nothing!  Over time, the students have learnt that a lot needs to be done even for a simple event like this