Spotlight On: Pupil Voice at Carr Manor Community School
Leeds wishes for all children and young people to be able to express their views, feel heard and be involved in decisions that affect their lives (Child Friendly Leeds wish number three). One of the ways in which young people can share their ideas and influence change within their community is through their school.
The Voice, Influence and Change Team met with Vicki Walker, Associate Leader for Pupil Opportunities and Development at Carr Manor Community School, to learn about how they achieve effective pupil participation. Vicki told the team about the structures they have in place to enable pupils to have a real say on issues that affect them.
Vicki explained that the whole school is split into Coaching groups and each Coaching group is assigned to a House Council; one person from each group is elected as a representative for their House Council. Each House Council has around twenty-five members including one member of staff and three pupil leaders (chair, vice chair and secretary). The councils meet every half term and the pupil leaders set the agenda and chair the meeting. The pupil leaders also attend termly senior leadership meetings to provide updates regarding top issues, priorities and actions, as well as make suggestions and request support.
Let the children lead and you’ll see you don’t need to follow a specific structure – flexibility is key.
The councils provide the rest of the school with feedback regarding their voice and influence via assemblies, a written newsletter (The Coaching Chronicle) and a video newsletter (Carr Manor TV). Sharing how their voices have been heard and actioned means the whole school sees genuine influence. This helps to motivate a range of young people to stand for election, resulting in a diverse group of representatives. Although the councils capture a range of different voices, Vicki would like to focus on helping those who wouldn’t ordinarily volunteer to develop from representative to leader. She explained that one of the many benefits of Coaching groups is that they enable staff to know their pupils well so they can provide tailored support to build their skills and confidence.
If adults empower children to be at the front and centre of what they do then what they do will work.
Vicki explained that the councils’ greatest achievement is the number of small changes that have had a big impact. Their work has recently resulted in an accessible prayer room, increased sports fixtures for females and a safer car park. They are also currently involved in two larger campaigns; one in partnership with First Bus, ensuring that young people get to school on time and one in partnership with West Yorkshire Police, increasing the safety of travel in their local area.
Two of the council representatives provided the following messages to inspire more young people to get involved in voice and influence work:
- “Give it a go… if you want to make a change just give it a go” (Babacar, Year 10)
- “You’ll get a lot of opportunities, learn social skills, speak with lots of other people and understand different perspectives” (Lola, Year 10)
Carr Manor are keen to learn from other schools, particularly around how their councils coproduce policy and would welcome any examples. Carr Manor encourage local schools to get in contact with Vicki Walker at firstname.lastname@example.org if they would like to explore possible ways of addressing common issues and priorities within their community, after all, there’s strength in numbers!