Schools told to give pupils greater say over what they learn

9th March 2018 at 13:32
Half of secondary pupils in Scotland say they lack influence over school life
Parents group in Scotland says young people's views are 'the most important in the school', as Ipsos-Mori poll finds pupils feel they have little influence

Schools in Scotland have been told to take a "hard look" at the extent to which they involve pupils in decisions, as findings reveal many children feel they have very little influence.

More than half of pupils feel they have little influence over what they learn, an Ipsos-Mori survey for the Scottish government shows.

This is despite the fact that "their view is the most important in the school", according to Joanna Murphy, chair of the National Parent Forum of Scotland.

The survey canvassed the views of 1,781 students aged 11-19 in 50 state secondary schools.

Some 55 per cent said they had "little" (27 per cent) or "no" (28 per cent) say in what they learn at school.

This proportion increases as they get older: from 40 per cent in S1, to 64 per cent in S6, the last year of secondary education.

'We have to change'

Girls are more negative than boys, with 60 per cent saying that they had little or no say over what they learn, compared with 51 per cent of boys.

Meanwhile, 48 per cent believed they had little (28 per cent) or no (20 per cent) say in how they learn. S1 pupils – the youngest – were the most positive in this area.

Some 54 per cent said they had little (31 per cent) or no (23 per cent) say over decisions that affect their school as a whole.

Ms Murphy said: "These are disappointing stats, but not entirely surprising. It is quite clear that our young people don’t feel that they are being listened to nor their opinions sought out.

“We have to change this. It is so important that they understand that their view is the most important in the school, that their parents and the staff want to support them and need to hear their voice."

She added: "I hope that with this information now published we can all take a long hard look at how we treat our young people in their schools and actually engage with them and listen to them more on their terms." 

Giving pupils a voice

The findings contrast with comments by outgoing children’s commissioner Tam Baillie, who said pupil voice had become much stronger in schools in recent years.

However, research evidence has suggested that forums such as pupil councils are often tokenistic and that teenagers have most influence over "softer" school issues, such as uniform.

Meanwhile, some in England warn that pupil voice has gone too far, with students sometimes helping to recruit and rate teachers.

In one case, pupils were asked to act as “secret shoppers”, reporting back to senior leaders on their teachers’ lessons.

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