On a guided tour of the UK’s parliament in London two years ago, I was told that the British government is keen for children to understand democracy and to get involved in politics. Democracy has become one of the corner stones of British values that has to be taught in British schools. For children at Dallington, the School Council is an opportunity to learn about democracy and to see it in action at a micro level. Evidence of the children’s positive attitude towards it, is the pupils seeing the School Council to have muscle and influence.
Every class from Year 1 upwards at Dallington elects two School Councillors at the start of each term. Through a secret ballot, children are encouraged to vote for someone who they believe is best placed to represent their class’s views at School Council. The post is held for a term and is seen as the most prestigious position for a pupil to hold in the school. It is the councillors’ responsibility on a monthly basis to bring to the School Council pupils’ suggestions on ways in which they feel their experiences at their school could be improved. Ofsted (school inspectors for England and Wales) believe an effective school cannot operate effectively without a school council as the pupils’ voice is vital to provide school leaders and management with a 360 degree of their school. It empowers children and gives them some ownership of their school. A wide variety of matters are raised and discussed at meetings ranging from playtime organisation and facilities to rewards and sanctions, and even toilets. All meetings are minuted and the minutes are shared with all children, staff and leadership.
One cannot fail to be impressed by the children’s ability to debate, listen and respond appropriately to argument, taking turns and showing respect for the points of views of others regardless of whether they are shared or not. In fact, I think one or two politicians could learn something from watching our children!