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Pupil voice to become law

News | Published in TES Newspaper on 14 November, 2008 | By: William Stewart

Furious teachers’ leaders warn changes are crazy and will add to schools’ burden

Schools will be legally forced to consult pupils on everything, from the way they are taught to behaviour and uniform policies, under a new law the Government has backed this week. The changes will put the trend towards “pupil voice” firmly on the statute books.

Teachers’ and heads’ leaders have reacted furiously to the “crazy” change, which they say will place an unnecessary burden on schools and disillusion their staff.

Some warn the law might leave schools open to being sued by parents who claim their children have not been properly consulted.

The Liberal Democrats’ amendment to the Education and Skills Bill, requiring school governing bodies to “invite and consider pupils’ views”, was accepted by the Government in the House of Lords on Tuesday.

Regulations, yet to be drawn up, will determine exactly what schools must ask pupils about.

But Baroness Morgan, the children’s minister, told Parliament: “As a minimum, schools should seek and take account of pupils’ views on policies on the delivery of the curriculum, behaviour, the uniform, school food, health and safety, equalities and sustainability, not simply on what colour to paint the walls.”

The legislation follows the introduction to schools of other new legal duties to promote community cohesion and pupil wellbeing.

The news was the last straw for John Dunford, general secretary of the Association of School and College Leaders. “This is crazy,” he said. “I am a strong supporter of pupil voice, but schools are increasingly consulting pupils because they think it is the right thing, not because Government tells them to.

“I am annoyed and furious that yet another in this continual stream of legal and educational duties is being placed on schools. They all bring unintended consequences.”

Arguing the duty was needed, Baroness Howe, a cross-bench peer, pointed to a recent Ofsted survey of nearly 150,000 pupils. When asked how much they thought their views were listened to in running their schools, 34 per cent had replied “not very much” or “not at all”.

Chris Keates, the NASUWT teachers’ union general secretary, said: “This is completely unnecessary and will be open to abuse.

“It is a distortion of the important concept of pupil voice that will lead to headteachers and teachers becoming very disillusioned.”

But Sir Michael Wilshaw, head of Mossbourne Academy in Hackney, east London, said schools would not have to alter what they were already doing for pupil voice.

The possibility of court action was raised by Lord Elton. The Conservative peer was glad the importance of listening to children had been recognised, but said: “I am sorry that it has to be in legislation.

“We are a litigious nation, and it would be very unfortunate if we were to have a rash of cases of parents saying, ‘You were not listening to my little Johnny.’”

To prevent this, the regulations would have to be flexible, he said.


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4.6 average rating

Comment (31)

  • Wouldn't it be nice if legislation was brought in to ensure that teachers' opinions are taken into consideration when running the school?!

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    18:53
    14 November, 2008

    tryingtogetorganised

  • Is it me or does the fact that the DSCF has recently funded a charity organistion highly linked to school councils have any impact on any recent finding supporting this crazy move. I am recently undergoing a BAHons and my dissertation in on pupil voice; in my case at an infant school. I personally feel that children need to have an input into some school issues and feel they belong to the community that is school. However, asking very young children who often do not fully understand the complexity that it democracy (let's face it nor do most adults) are being put into a situation whereby they could be running the schools in 5 years. Soon it could be 5 year olds for prime minister! According to the government they are probably capable or it and may even do a better job.

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    0:39
    15 November, 2008

    aaitken

  • agree with above; at our school (Hirst high) we have an employed student advocate (ex head boy) who deals with all things re pupil voice, questionnaires and manages the student council. We also have subject leaders(Pupils) re link with curriculum areas and they have been put in charge of AFL displays etc. Note though they have been directed to good and interesting tasks that they think and we think will make a difference. It works over here; very sad to here about legislating this mind; dare I say co constructing , mutual respect; I view the teacher-pupil relationship the same as doctor -patient BUT I work with 13-19; my final thought is listening to pupils is a skill and no amount of legislation is going to make this one happen ( I suspect)

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    Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    9:33
    15 November, 2008

    nickmathsman

  • Well, I'm sure we'll have to play more games in lessons because a lot of the children I teach don't like reading, listening and writing. More effective ways to raise attainment are now being legislated (all sarcasm intended). Games, or the illusion of games, have a place, yes, because a lot of pupils like competition, reinforce and revise learning and liven up a lesson. I believe that other important skills must always have a place too and in general, pupils understand this. When pupils find these difficult, they can switch off and then start to misbehave unless this understanding has been developed in effective classroom discourse. Unfortunately, life is not all fun and schools and now the government would be doing pupils a disservice if we allow them to think that if they say they want to play games for thirteen years, we will let them! This is not to say that pupil voice is not important; I believe that empowering people is important. The way in which this is done, however, needs to be very cautiously and as Nickmathsman said, tasks "need to be good and interesting...[so]...that they think and we think will make a difference". Otherwise, when these empowered pupils grow up, the government might just wonder where skills have gone and the then adults might want to know why they aren't as empowered in adult life as they were when they were children. This could have a variety of impacts...maybe Johnny could run for Prime Minister and give us all the year off and fund a long fun holiday so I don't have to work all weekend filling in spreadsheets and preparing fun and interesting lessons! I love my job but I don't understand the logic behind some of this legislation. It is potentially disastrous for some of our more challenging and often underachieving pupils and their families.

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    10:25
    15 November, 2008

    Ernest1

  • My school had really great pupil voice policies. We kids ran the show. No difficult literature texts more than ten years old we couldn't immediately understand and relate to, no harsh rules about having to go for a whole hour without eating and drinking, loads of videos and computer games to teach us (it was what we were used to at home, so why try anything different at school?). Oddly, though, when I got my first job and went to tell my boss it was boring and I wanted background music, visual stimulation and constant changes of task, it didn't go down too well. Why didn't school prepare me for the real world?

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    15:12
    16 November, 2008

    VDelicit

  • 34% said their views were listened to not much or not at all. Is this fact or their perception? Does it mean they haven't been consulted? It may mean that whilst their views were sought, their personal opinions are not reflected in school policy. Perhaps their views were at odds with the remaining 66%. Perhaps their ideas were unsuitable for any number of practical or educational reasons. Consultation is not a vote and even if it were, there will always be those who are unaware of their opportunities to engage or who are dissatisfied with the outcome when they have engaged. This is yet another example of poor use of statistics to back up and argument. What exactly was the question posed to learners? Was it explicit about opportunities to voice views or was it based around student perception of whether their individual ideas were reflected in their learning environment? We should all be concerned if this is the limited type of statistical exercise undertaken to determine what is made statutory.

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    17:42
    16 November, 2008

    JVaughan

  • Brilliant.This means that the kids will have more say than mainscale teachers like me.There is no legislation or even moral obligation on senior management to consult me or even consider that I might have an opinion when making decisions.

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    18:45
    16 November, 2008

    Cynical

  • It's things like this that are making me desperate to leave teaching.

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    10:42
    17 November, 2008

    dandelion0202

  • Makes me glad I left! Children always ask for what is best for them, don't they, and not just what they feel like in the moment, or what they think would be a laugh. Is it the law to take any notice of these consultations or can you listen and still ignore if the ideas are clearly not in the best interests of the school? If you have to implement every idea you may as well hand over now and let the lunatics run the asylums.

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    16:36
    17 November, 2008

    janemk

  • yeah...all this kind of thing does is reinforce my decision to leave teaching! They are still children and if the government trusted or valued our professionalism they would believe that we became teachers to do what is best for children. Children do not always know what is best for thhem interms of curriculum deilvery and reinforcing literacy through the wider curriculum... anything about cognitive develeopment etc etc etc. I feel dissillusioned and totally unvalued by the govt and the wider society.

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    20:45
    17 November, 2008

    milkchocwrapper

  • Who are these morons in the government? Are they soooooooo far from reality that such a suggestion has been made? There is a reason we have adults and children in any society. There are somethings children do not need to be involved in and one of those is how their school is run! It's bad enough consulting some parents. They are children, they lack the experience in life do deal with most decisions hence they have teaches and parents - the adults. Children are children for a reason, they do not know what is best for them and it's because we've given them so much decision making powers and rights that society is the mess it is today. The government needs to stop playing God in the lives of the electorates; most of their forward looking initiates just makes the situation worse than it already is.

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    21:10
    17 November, 2008

    sounique85

  • Law? Whats that? Same one that finds a mom at fault if child truants? Well, child does not need to attend school five days a week; thats their voice. Should we listen? Anyway, I agree with the comment above; lets face it teachers, we are the most unvalued people. We are expected to deliver miracles with our hands tied to our backs. I think its time to quit too. My degree can be useful else where. After all, my children attend a traditionally ethic school; a faith school. I wonder why they still do better ............ rocket science???

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    21:11
    17 November, 2008

    Lucy Charlton

  • DCSF must sit down every week and say, Right! what controvertial thing can we think of to upset teachers and justify our salary this week. In all honesty pupil voice and the whole "give the parents the say" programme is damaging to safegaurding because, as a headteacher, if I have any contentious information about children (child protection, anything that may adversly affect of ECM outcomes) I keep it to myself, because I don't want to get on the wrong side of the parents. Bold "In the know parents" are having more and more say in schools and HTs are afraid to stand up to them - the lunatics are taking over the asylum. No the wonder colleagues are looking to get out of teaching and no one will take a HT job. Remember!! colleagues, there is an election in 18 to 24 months time dont vote for these people (torys are no better, let's have a hung parliament (Lib Dem?)

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    21:36
    17 November, 2008

    wattie54

  • Here we go again, Education, Education Education with the government going legilsation crazy, although good news for some laywers. I guess it keeps everyone busy because teachers are not doing enough work. I look forward to going into school and wearing my own hoodie and listen to me tracks loud on my mobile mp3 player because kids will definitely vote for that. In fact I might even move to a school where I know children would vote for lets all dress up like celebirities and become footballers so there "wats da point, i aint neva gonna use mafs coz we gots kalklators". Nice one from the goverment, I guess they think at least it will keep a lot of people busy while the economy slides into the black hole. Prepare for another mass exodus and home office should start preparing the work permits for the new high skilled immigration intake. We all know the goverment has got it in for the public and thats why we are kicked around on every single legislation. This one beats them all where the lords have decided to keep their lordship by agreeing to let Joe Public loose on A N Other- that way they are happy and everybody else is arguing over and round in circles to no end with the state of affairs of the british school system. Conservatives you must be laughing out loud at this and invite the Lib Dems to join in on the laugh.

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    23:01
    17 November, 2008

    lm14h

  • Whilst I think that student views should be considered; I think that this level is absolutely crazy. Like a lot of the above; as a classroom teacher I have never been asked for my opinion; over a long period of time, this has not done my self esteem or sense of self worth any good, to the point where I too am considering leaving the profession. If we were to change the context to hospitals - patients have a choice of where they are treated - but usually respect the fact that the Doctor/surgeon etc. has actually undergone substantial training for a reason and that they might actually have a fair idea of which treatments are/are not suitable! At this rate - why not cut out the middle man and let the students come in and teach themselves - the government clearly think that they know best!In the meantime - any (career) suggestions for a mathematician looking to leave teaching?

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    23:11
    17 November, 2008

    justcoping

  • Here we go letting the loonies run the asylum. Opps sorry I forgot they already run the government! I for one will leave the profession if this nonsense is not repealed.

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    11:00
    18 November, 2008

    Bauchmeister

  • One of the jobs I had before I went into teaching was as a youth worker. I complained to the council Area Community Education Officer that we were dangerously overstreached with the sixty or so 14 to 17 year olds, mostly from the nearby council estate, and needed more staff. To cut a long story short he recommended I give them more of a say and get the older ones to help run the centre. The young people elected their members committee. This did the trick - but not in the way he thought - certain youth committee members were forever trying to push the boundaries and from time to time all of them became unsure where they stood. In no time at all we had a more manageable attendance of about thirty. Give it a year and most pupils in most schools will be apethetic at best. No doubt in some of the more affluent areas it will work well and should be encouraged, but not made mandatory for all.

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    Rating: 4 out of 5 stars
    13:22
    18 November, 2008

    123aja456

  • I was thinking of taking a PGCE in primary eduction. Am I doing the right thing?

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    14:01
    18 November, 2008

    superdupersoprano

  • Get the kids to do the lesson planning and work out how they should be assessed on it - obviously against NC levels and all that! See what they come up with. They'll no doubt find that there's not that much time left for fun and frivolities either. Might just give this a go - and have an early night for a change!

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    18:28
    18 November, 2008

    Hijaqs

  • Will the pupils be held accountable for the results of the school if the school is run in accordance with their wishes? Perhaps this initiative could be extended to other walks of life: Prisoners could dictate how prisons are run; surgeons could be instructed by their patients; the Council would have to ask me how often I want my bins collected; the tax office might have to ask us what tax we would like to pay; the government might have to ask us before going to war. Funny how it only seems to be a good idea in schools.

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    19:22
    18 November, 2008

    Billybong

  • What a load of rubbish. Why is it that within our profession we constantly have people peering in giving their two cents worth, utterly ludicrous. Considering I would imagine that most of our performance (and subsequent pay) is directly linked to league tables (5 A-C

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    19:42
    18 November, 2008

    mgardiner

  • This is the best thing that has ever happened in teaching - student voice! Bring it on!

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    20:00
    18 November, 2008

    asalim

  • Seems to me the government doesn't want our children to be educated.. why?? Well in the future these children will be adults, the voice of the country, it will be a lot easier to manipulate these adults if they haven't had an adequate education. What annoys me most is, what are we doing as professionals to prevent the situation from getting worse? Or to gain the respect we deserve and the general public realises the seriousness of the situation- we need unity, all unions together, teachers/educators/ support staff everyone together we need to make a stance not only for us but for our children!

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    20:33
    18 November, 2008

    ela86

  • Is there any point in all that training we do ? All we have to do is'consult' with everyone else and they will tell us what to do ! After all if the children know what's best what do they need education for anyway?

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    20:36
    18 November, 2008

    carolec

  • Open your eyes people and realise what is happening here- education is the key to a free country

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    20:38
    18 November, 2008

    ela86

  • What's this fuss about? What's new?

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    22:37
    19 November, 2008

    Only Me

  • Salem. We are in Salem.

    Unsuitable or offensive? Report this comment

    13:10
    20 November, 2008

    bowiebrain

  • ela86: "Seems to me the government doesn't want our children to be educated.." What could be a better education than practising democracy, the heart of our country and the modern world? This isn't about anarchy; it's about participation, engagement and consultation. Just because most of those people posting were educated in a steeply hierarchical and authoritarian environment, it doesn't mean that this is the future. How do you expect students to cope with the complexities of the 'real world' if you are so afraid to relinquish power that they have no responsibilities at school?

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    Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    10:22
    21 November, 2008

    Ben.ESSA

  • Ben, I see where you are coming from, but I think that, unfortunatley, this legislation will only serve to further undermine the 'authority' that teachers have. What will it say to pupils when their views MUST be taken into account, but the views of their teachers do not even have to be heard?!

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    11:53
    21 November, 2008

    iamsmile

  • Yes, there should be similar legislation for teachers - it should be a whole-school approach, and too much focus on one group is only going to cause friction. However, I think we need to get beyond this view of 'authority' and move towards a system of students and teachers working together. In examples where such systems are already in place, and are not just tokenistic but are genuine examples of student involvement, students don't just rebel against the teachers and the school: they actively participate in it for its greater good. In my job I go into schools to encourage this sort of thing and what is incredibly noticeable is that ALL students (totally regardless of background, and I see a huge variety) have ideas about how they want their schools to be run. In the majority of cases these are good ideas, ones that most teachers would probably agree with anyway, and ones that are already being fostered through Government initiatives. However, the mere act of involving them is so beneficial for them and their development and also so fascinating for the teachers who work with them, that it is foolish to ignore. Initiatives like BSF are taking students' opinions into account to great effect - it is only natural to extend this towards the school as a whole.

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    Rating: 5 out of 5 stars
    13:25
    21 November, 2008

    Ben.ESSA

  • The reason student voice became such a popular campaign is because it is supported by the majority of teachers and is recognised as fundamental to a productive and successful school. Any teacher threatening to resign over the introduction of student voice really shouldn't be in the modern education system and trainee teachers who don't support the idea of school councils and student interview panels won't find themselves fitting in to many schools - especially when they end up face to face with a student interview panel on interview day for their first teaching job. What's wrong with Student Voice becoming law? After all, anybody has the right to complain to a shop when they are maltreated as a customer: students are the customers of education (teachers, governers and LEAs).

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    11:35
    25 November, 2008

    bsutcliffe

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