Inclusion of pupils' voice must be more than a sham

12th February 2010 at 00:00

My council recently issued an online, independent questionnaire to employees. I was impressed. The questions were wide-ranging, even searching. Willingness to accept employees' views is commendable.

But I was disappointed that only about a third of my colleagues had responded. Lack of trust may be the problem, not least because of the chasm that sometimes exists between rhetoric and reality.

Consulting teachers is still new in most schools. In contrast, garnering pupils' views is an industry. This says much about the value management places on teachers' contribution to a successful school.

One ambivalent development has been the focus group. HMIE has used discussion with pupils to gain insights into how schools work, as have some in senior management. They can be helpful, illuminating the actual as opposed to theoretical functioning of a school. But inappropriately used, they can create a witch-hunt.

A wise school or education authority will not ignore intelligent suggestions by pupils or teachers; they will cultivate trust, aware that this stimulates participation and improves performance. But if consultation is seen to be a sham, cynicism will flourish.

If pupils are to be equipped to make an effective contribution in their lives, schools must be models of effective participation.

David Halliday, Eyemouth High.

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