School Council at Orchard Primary School
What does a school council do?
A school council is a formal group of pupils who act as representatives of their classmates in discussing school issues with the headteacher and staff. It’s a brilliant way of representing and contributing to Pupil Voice in your school. Students are elected to represent the views of all pupils and also to improve their school. "School council" means all kinds of school-based groups run by students, including student forums and youth parliaments. They help to make decisions about how the school is run and take on projects that support the children’s learning and development, such as organising charity events, representing the school at outside events or ensuring the school is environmentally friendly. School councils are usually elected annually by the other children. A school council does a number of things:
- A school council usually meets with a teacher present to discuss and sort out problems. These could include school lunches, behaviour or ideas for fundraising events.
- Members of the school council are responsible for carrying out the ideas that have been agreed upon, such as planning discos, writing newspaper articles, or meeting with catering staff.
- Each year, every class will normally elect two representatives to be members of the school council. The council will then meet to elect officers such as Chair, Secretary and Treasurer.
Why should we have a school council?
There are lots of reasons to have a school council. To begin with, Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) says that children and young people should have a say in decisions that affect their lives. A school council can provide a meaningful way in which pupils can voice their opinions and have their views taken into account in decisions that impact upon them. Evidence and experience from schools all over the country shows that a school council that is supported and nurtured helps to improve many aspects of school life. It’s an important and useful way for schools to provide leadership and development opportunities for their pupils.
Student councils are a great way for students to take on leadership roles, promote the voice of the student body, problem solve and impact their community. A council serves as the voice for an entire student body and actively works with teachers and advisors to promote a better learning environment.
Within the school curriculum, one of the key areas making up the ‘Learning for Life and Work’ theme is active participation. The curriculum requires that young people are provided with opportunities to participate in school and society. School councils are an excellent way in which to increase participation, teaching young people about democracy, local and global citizenship and accountability.
What is the history of school councils?School Councils have been about for around forty years, but now with citizenship being taught so widely, there are many more being set up. The government says that school councils are important, but it isn't compulsory for schools to have one. Having said that, in some countries there are laws that state all secondary schools must have councils, for example in Ireland, Germany, Spain and Sweden.
What makes a school council successful?
A good school council is one that represents the views of all students and gets things done. These are some things that make a school council effective:
- Regular meetings.
- A council that is not too big.
- Class/Form councils that meet regularly.
- Good communication between representatives and their class.
- Training for school council members.
- Smaller groups (subcommittees) working on specific events or issues.
- A bank account or budget (however small).
- Annual evaluations.
Will my child miss lessons if they’re on the school council?
If the school council meets during curriculum time, then your child would miss some lessons. But it's usually arranged so that they don't miss the same lesson each time, and teachers are also asked to help them catch up. Some school councils meet at lunchtime or after school to avoid this happening in the first place.
How to create a school council action plan:
A school council action plan is a strategy for achieving a specific aim that may arise from the evaluation or discussion of an issue. Using a school action plan enables members to record key points for action and identify members of the group responsible for overseeing each item. It also provides space for time frames and success criteria for each action. It can enable the school council representatives to list priorities, actions and leaders for important items that the school council would like to address. A school action plan usually has different parts to it. They should cover the following areas:
- A name for the project and who is leading the project.
- It should clearly state what needs to be done.
- It needs to clearly address who will be involved with it and their roles.
- A date for when the project should be completed by needs to be included.
An action plan is a checklist for the steps or tasks you need to complete in order to achieve the goals you've set out. It’s an essential part of the planning and strategic process and helps with improving teamwork planning. Action plans can also be used by individuals to prepare a strategy to achieve their own personal goals as well. A successful action plan should include:
- a well-defined description of the goal to be achieved;
- tasks/steps that need to be carried out to reach the goal;
- people who will be in charge of carrying out each task;
- when the tasks will be completed (deadlines and milestones);
- resources needed to complete the tasks;
- measures to evaluate progress;
What’s great about having everything listed down in one place is that it makes it easier to track progress and effectively plan things out. Children may or may not be involved in the writing of the school council action plan, but it can be a really effective way of introducing them to using focussed and structured strategies. This will undoubtedly come in handy in their future careers and further education. By learning how to write or follow an action plan as part of their school council duties, children are encouraged to employ some of these skills and thought-processes.
What might be discussed during a school council?
Children are usually elected from classes all around the school, and the school council is designed to provide an opportunity for them to be directly involved in general issues that affect the school. These issues can be wide-ranging and can be initiated by staff or pupil groups. During the school council meetings, council members would typically discuss things like improvements to school grounds; creating a school motto; arranging tours of the school for guests and visitors; and input in staff appointments.
Members of the school council should be given time in class to get feedback from their peers and find out opinions on matters that will be discussed at the meetings. Feedback from these sessions and minutes from meetings can then be used to inform decisions at a whole-school level.