3rd February 2006 at 00:00
School Councils for All - including disabled pupils and pupils with special educational needs School Councils UK, pound;15

It is a couple of years since the DfES published Working Together - giving children and young people a say, which, as well as promoting school councils, spoke about the importance of involving the "hard to reach". This latest manual from the independent charity School Councils UK complements its toolkits for primary and secondary schools. The focus of this is on those for whom participation cannot be left to chance.

This is an excellent guide for any school that wants to make pupil participation a valid exercise rather than a cosmetic one. I remember interviewing some secondary pupils about their council. "We tell them what we want and they tell us why we can't have it," one said.

This book is open and honest in its assessment that councils present a challenge to schools, inclusive school councils even more so because the result is likely to be requests for significant changes in school practice.

It sees the inclusive council as a key instrument in promoting disability awareness and challenging discriminatory practice.

The manual provides activities to stimulate better debate, including a very valuable one to develop an understanding of the social model of disability.

It also promotes the idea that pupils need training to understand how decision-making works, and it challenges the notion that democracy is about the majority outvoting the minority. Instead it promotes a consensual approach from which other institutions might benefit.

Packed full of ideas that will make any school council more effective, this publication clearly illustrates that when steps are taken to support the needs of pupils at risk of social and academic exclusion, the whole school benefits.

Bill Goler

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