Policy making in schools (and other settings too) can never be fully effective unless children are included in the conversations.
In preparation for the new school year we are looking to develop a team of children who can comment on educational policy adding a much needed voice to the continuing discussions about schools.
EquippingKids approach is based on the need to engage with the individual child. That means that we have to talk to children for only then can we start to look beyond so many of the assumptions that pervade the way we do ‘school’. It is an overwhelming reality that the practices in the majority of schools are based on adults doing what they think is best. This is not to be rejected, but surely it has to be mixed with what children think as well.
In July the results for the national SATs testing in primary schools were released. On the one hand SATs are lauded for their effectiveness in raising standards for children and on the other hand for the stress and strain they place on children’s school experience. In a very simple but telling review I looked at 15 newspaper articles published in the same week as the SATs results (3rd-10th July) - based on a search on their news websites of ‘SATs Results’. These articles were from 4 UK news papers, - The Guardian, The Telegraph, The Daily Mail and The Mirror.
Out of 15 articles only 1 included children’s voices.
The one article that did refer to what children had to say was written by a parent. This parent told of how her child’s words influenced how she thought and then acted. Her response to her child’s education was, therefore shaped by what her child had to say!
This was in stark contrast to other articles that offered adult opinions and views that were not directly linked to the voice of children. Articles related how the tests were ‘controversial with parents, teachers and school leaders’ but what about children? One head teacher decided to boycott the tests after consultation with ‘parents and governors’ but what about the children? These adults concerns are recognised by the government. In one article Nick Gibb, minister for School Standards, highlighted how he was keen to move beyond such concerns by encouraging conversation. Through a consultation, which closed in June with findings to be shared in September, he pointed out that their aim was ‘to establish a stable, trusted assessment system that supports children to fulfil their potential’. But notably this consultation did not invite children’s input. If we truly want children to fulfil their potential then don’t we need to engage with children too.
Such consultations, like the comment in these news articles, whether for or against SATs, will remain hollow and limited without input from those who are most directly affected.
Including children’s voices will only add to our understanding of their experience and therefore our ability as adults to shape the right policies and practices. We look forward to welcoming children's thoughts on these issues and any others that they see as being relevant to their experience of school.
The new school year will also see us sharing findings on research with just under 1000 children on their experience of school as well as analysis of a joint project with schools in Canada on belonging.