Pupil power still finding its true way

30th November 2007 at 00:00
The young people of Wales have delivered a damning verdict on statutory schools councils (see page 3), claiming meetings are crammed into lunch hours, there is too much control by teachers and the way they are run is sometimes less than democratic.

But schools should not beat themselves up over this stinging rebuke, contained in the annual report from Funky Dragon, the young people's Welsh Assembly. There are many examples of excellently run school councils across Wales in which pupils are given the opportunity to shape their destiny. As usual, it is the minority not doing so well that grab the headlines.

The changing dynamics of the pupil-teacher relationship in schools will be easier for some adults to adapt to than others. The new educational vogue says that including pupils in school decision-making encourages more active learning and better behaviour. But how does that tally with the children who want to eat chips and chocolate for lunch instead of new healthier options on the menu?

The headteacher quoted in the report, who defends the "adults" in this example, has a point. This is evidence enough that there is a limit to which children can go in making decisions when their adult superiors have to take the flak.

The Assembly government is proud that Wales was the first country in the UK to make councils compulsory in secondary and junior schools. It was quick to jump on the criticism this week, promising to make the elected bodies "truly effective".

Pupils want more funding and better training for teachers. However, TES Cymru carries a front-page story this week with claims that core funding for some of the most important educational reforms in Wales this decade - the foundation phase and the 14-19 Learning Pathways - will not be met.

Another story comes with calls from the School Workload Advisory Panel for more training and in-service training days to prepare staff for the challenges they face with a rush of initiatives next year (see page 4). Considering this, is it any wonder that school councils may seem to be less of a priority and meetings are rushed? Teachers are human, after all.

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