Child-led Pupil Groups at St. John's
Children’s Parliament worked with P5 to P7 children at St. Johns RC primary to investigate learner participation via pupil groups. Children talked about their experiences of being in pupil groups, explored what they wanted from their pupil groups, and created a school-wide Pupil Group Manifesto.
Why did we investigate pupil groups?
When thinking about their experiences of life at school many children spoke about being disappointed about the opportunities for pupil voice groups. This came out strongly in workshops with children as well as in our use of the dignity assessment the start of the school year [link to new assessment tool].
For the school a lot of the missed opportunities were down to the pandemic, with cross school groups not being able to meet and pupil representatives feeling frustrated that they could not take action on areas of interest to them. So, pupils and staff decided to make this loss into a new opportunity for St. John’s to pause and reflect on their current pupil group model and think about the best way to pick it back up as restrictions lifted.
The purpose of the investigation was to consult with children about what they wanted their pupil groups to be like, how they wanted children to be selected and how they wanted information to be shared, allowing all children (not just a few members) the chance to raise their views.
What had been happening in school pre covid?
St. John’s had been home to an impressive seven pupil groups! Children told us they were proud of the work the pupil groups did in school. They thought their ‘Eco Group’ was particularly important and some of their favourite school memories had been organised by the ‘Learning Council’.
Pre Covid, there were also lots of social, sporty and creative clubs at the school including ‘Glee’ which was sorely missed by pupils when singing in school was discouraged due to Covid restrictions.
Children felt that Covid had impacted heavily on their pupil groups, they were no longer sure which groups were running or who was their class representative on those groups. Children and adults reflected that with the pandemic and the resulting focus on recovery, some groups had not been able to meet for many months.
Children also told us that they didn’t always think that the selection process for some of the groups was fair. Many groups were selected by popular vote, which led to certain children being favoured, and some children felt too shy to put themselves forward for any groups that required applications, campaigns or other activities that might place them in the spotlight. The school had started some work on this issue at the start of term, thinking about new ways to select their house captains, you can read more about that process here [link]. However, children wanted all the pupil voice groups to consider different ways of running their selection to allow a wider range of children to be involved.
It was clear that the pupil groups in St. John’s were an important part of the school for many pupils and there were a lot of children keen to be part of the discussion about how we could make them even better.
How did we investigate pupil groups?
Our CP worker Jo worked with a range of pupils across the upper school, including a mix of children in pupil groups and children who were interested in pupil groups, but were not currently represented on any.
Here is a snapshot of some of the work carried out with children at St. John’s alongside adults in the school:
- Children’s Rights Champions Training – Jo worked with the ‘House Captains’ at St. John’s to develop and deliver a Children’s Rights Champions Training session. We explored rights in school using Sandy’s Story [link] as a basis for discussion. We then reflected on what the role of house captains at St. John’s is and how they can support children to achieve their rights in school.
- Whole Class workshops on pupil voice – Jo worked with P5 at St. John’s for 6 weeks around the idea of pupil voice within the school and what pupil voice groups should look like. These sessions included:
– Why pupil voice groups are important and valuable to children.
– What pupil voice group exist at St. John’s and what they do.
– How members of pupil groups are selected.
- Pupil group manifesto – After the initial workshops in P5 a short-term pupil group with a smaller number of P5s was formed to go deeper. The aim of this group was to create a Pupil Group Manifesto for St. John’s which would shape the way that pupil voice groups were run in the school going forward. This document was in the children’s own words, and they approved it before it was passed on to senior leadership for implementation.
The manifesto also includes a poster template [include link to this page of the manifesto above as an image] for creating information sheets for each pupil group within a school. This was felt to be important to children so that they can understand at a glance:
- What the group does.
- Who is involved in the group (current membership).
- How to join.
- How to share ideas and feed into the group.
- Who the supporting adult is.
Throughout the project class teachers were involved, taking part in workshops and sharing their own insights and experiences as supporting adults of pupil groups.
Staff at the school also reflected on the manifesto and made a plan for how it would be put into action.
What was the impact of the work on Pupil Groups?
The school now has a pupil group manifesto to work with and the P5s who created the document will move into P6 and P7, following a manifesto that they designed as they apply for and take part in pupil voice groups. The children were really proud of what they achieved and keen to share it with the rest of the school and others.
School management, adults in all different roles in school and children are now clearer on what groups exist and what function they serve in the school. This allows a lot more transparency around how groups are selected and how children across the school can feed into decision-making, even if they are not part of a group itself.
The process really highlighted how important children feel their pupil voice groups are. They are invested in the work that they do and want to see the difference being made in school. Giving children ownership of their groups and being transparent with them around how decisions are made will really empower your children and make them feel a part of the workings of the school.
Click through the document below to see St John’s Pupil Manifesto!