Schools worldwide are focusing on how the foundations of a school can help set appropriate conditions for learning. Student voice has played an integral role in establishing new initiatives for involving students in improving school buildings and facilities and consequently, empowering young people to take action on issues that concern them.
What’s the impact? Here is one example of how a school in the UK has managed to engage meaningful student involvement and see its impact. New Line Learning Academy, of which my "Hot Topic" colleague Chris Gerry was formerly the Executive Headteacher, offers many great examples, as evidenced by a case study published by Involver several years ago. I had the pleasure of visiting the school a few years back, and the photo in the gallery below was one of my favourite rooms. Here are some highlights they uncovered:
One interesting "Method Used" that I thought was worth highlighting (the others are documented in the case study link above) is what they called the "Design Team"
The Design Team is a group drawn from across the school, anybody can be on it. They are the focal point for student voice within the school. They help to design all aspects of the school, from the logo and uniform to aspects of the curriculum.
Students volunteer themselves and can join and leave at any time. Whilst this creates some fluidity in the membership, there is also a core group of students who have specific roles. They are the heart of the Design Team and ensure that it keeps running.
The main method they use to ensure they represent the whole of the school is maintaining the diversity of their Design Team. They also use the daily 30-minute ‘well-being sessions’ in their year groups to discuss issues which are taken back to the main Design Team meetings. For more formal information gathering from the whole-school or specific year groups they create surveys in SharePoint which can be pushed to all students through the VLE. They also use a team of ‘social reporters’- Y10 students trained to use digital media to report on social issues – to examine issues and create debate. These stories often reflect external community issues and bridge the school-community interface.