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Handy manual

"Being on the school council is a serious job and it isn't easy. But you're one of the most important people in your school and can help make it a nicer place."

So says School Councils UK in its handbook for primary pupils that explains why councils are needed, how they're run and how to take part.

The school council world is depicted through children's eyes - those of the chair, vice-chair, secretary and treasurer at a fictitious school, St Derek's primary. The handbook covers 50 topics - from action planning to vision statement.

Its starting point - likely to have a broad appeal - is that adults don't always make the right decisions and that children can have better ideas.

There is a neat three-paragraph summary of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

Then it's down to business, setting out what a school councillor does and asking what children might like to achieve - for example, a healthy eating tuckshop, running an anti-bullying campaign or getting new playground equipment.

Guidance and ground rules on meetings run to several pages, covering agendas, minutes, the role of the chair, reporting back and action plans.

The handbook also lists key adults with whom the school council should be in touch: the head, link teacher, governor, cook and caretaker. It encourages members to look at issues beyond the school gates such as road safety, and to see what can be achieved in the community.

At the end of the handbook is a contacts page and website addresses to cover most eventualities. Further general advice is available from www.schoolcouncils.org; telephone 0845 456 9428.

School Councils UK has also published a new range of toolkits, Key Stage 1 participation and school councils toolkit by Di Clay; Primary School councils Toolkit by Di Clay with Jessica Gold and School Councils for all, including disabled pupils and pupils with special educational needs, by Justin Simon and Judith Stone; www.schoolcouncils.org

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