Venue: Committee Room 2, Town Hall, Barking
Contact: Masuma Ahmed, Democratic Services Officer, Civic Centre, Dagenhamm, London, RM10 7BN Telephone - 020 8227 2756 / email - firstname.lastname@example.org
Declaration of Members' Interests
In accordance with the Council’s Constitution, Members are asked to declare any interest they may have in any matter which is to be considered at this meeting.
There were no declarations of interest.
The minutes of the meeting held on 6 Feb were confirmed as correct.
The Local Picture: Verbal Update on Evidence Gathering in Schools
Anne Pepper, Principle Adviser, Secondary (PAS), provided a verbal update on the work being done to establish what role school councils play in promoting student voice in the Borough, as part of the Committee's in-depth review.
This involved working closely with different schools and asking them a variety of questions on how their school councils function. Officers working on this had about a five week window to work with schools, collate and analyse the data and, draw conclusions from it.
50 schools indicated that they would participate and visits were arranged with each school to draw out the evidence. Of the 50 visits, 42 had been undertaken to date and the remaining 8 visits would be rearranged after Easter, and so may not able to be included in the final report.
A summary report would be drafted to be completed, two weeks after the Easter holidays. Each visit has been evaluated using the Ofsted criteria of ‘outstanding’, ‘good’, ‘satisfactory/requires improvement’ or ‘inadequate’. So far, none of the schools had been rated 'outstanding' in terms of their school councils’ functions; however, most had been rated 'good', some satisfactory/requiring improvement. None of those visited to date, have been rated as inadequate.
The evidence so far suggests that schools councils in primary schools are more resourceful and imaginative, and have moved on from basic topics such as toilets and food to intermediate areas such as the playground and school uniforms. A few were tackling more complex matters such as improving learning or safety and conduct. One school, for example, put up posters in response to behaviour of some parents in the playground which the children were not happy with.
Schools were generally very positive about taking part in this work and contributed to recommendations which may be proposed in the report presenting the evidence from this exercise. One thing that was already clear was that staff felt that further local face to face training in supporting school councils was needed. They had pointed to downloadable courses on the Schools Councils UK website.
It was evident that school councils were a real strength to their schools; however, there were areas where further development would really help. Staff were observed to provide substantial advice to the children and there were questions around how much assistance they should provide in the selection process which admitted children to the school council. Furthermore, school council activities had apparent links to principles such as leadership and citizenship; however, these needed to be more firmly embedded. Some schools worked on a 'you said; we did' model which was particularly good.
The Corporate Director, Children's Services (CDCS) stated the 'you said we did' model was very important as lack of reporting on what the school council was doing about matters raised gave the impression that it served only a 'tokenistic' purpose. Something Paul Cox, (who acted as the Youth Representative on this Committee) had raised during this review was that when the recommendations of school councils could not be implemented, it ... view the full minutes text for item 46.
The National Picture: School Councils UK Expert Witness - Sem Simkins
This item will be delivered via a presentation followed by discussion.
Sem Simkins, Trainer and Consultant from School Councils UK, introduced himself to the Committee and outlined his background.
He recommended the two following very useful resources in the field of school councils:
· SchoolCouncils – School Improvement (Prof. Lynn Davies and Hiromi Yamashita, University of Birmingham, 2007)
· Real Decision Making? School Councils in Action (Geoff Whitty & Emma Wisby, Institute of Education, University of London, 2007)
Mr Simkins shared a handout with those present, which was used to discuss his experiences of the effectiveness of school councils and facilitate a discussion with member. The discussion is outlined below.
Pupil Voice (introduction)
There were very clear reasons as to why schools should have school councils:
· Children's rights
· Active citizenship
· School improvement
Model school councils are ones:
· That have ownership and responsibility
· That have a voice and a raised profile
· That have links to Personal , sexual, health education (PSHE) matters
· That operate on the principles of democracy and promote good citizenship
· That work in partnership
· That communicate well
· Where staff enlighten the perception of themselves with children
1. The "Perfect" School Council
The structure of the school council should form part of the school's teaching strategy. The whole basis of the school council is to serve and impact positively on all the pupils of the school.
Mr Simkins provided an example of work he did with a school in Hendon where he had used the analogy of a car to describe to the children how school councils work. The children understood that like petrol was needed to get the car moving, good school council reps were needed to make their school councils effective.
All pupils need time and space to meet and receive feedback from the representatives who attend school council meetings. It's often necessary for staff to let go and allow pupils to take ownership. Tutors need support and training to empower pupils. Schools councils should be a decision making body, responsible to relay what students have to say to staff.
There was a tendency in some primary schools to operate a 'decision- action' model whereby the pupils would identify the action that needed to be taken but the action itself would be taken by the teacher. Where appropriate, pupils should also be involved in taking action.
It was important that school councils were not seen as the sole responsibility of the link-teacher and there was input from all staff. The budget available to support the school council should be made clear.
Mr Simkins described an exercise he undertook with schools whereby he asked pupils to choose whether red, blue or green was their favourite colour and then move to the relevant marked space to indicate their preference. He observed that very few pupils ever said that they could not choose (because their favourite colour was not given as an option) and instead went along with what their peers did. He highlighted this to them and used it to explain to pupils that they should speak ... view the full minutes text for item 47.
Date of Next Meeting
Tuesday 30 April 2013
Committee room 2, Town Hall, Barking
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