Pupil Voice dubbed failure by children's commissioner

27th November 2009 at 00:00
Sir Al Aynsley-Green says students say what they think teachers want to hear

The introduction of Pupil Voice, the Government drive to include students as "partners" in their own learning, has been a failure because children only tell teachers what they think they want to hear, England's children's commissioner has warned.

Sir Al Aynsley-Green called for an improvement in communication between adults and children as researchers revealed concerns that the now constant obligation for staff to consult with pupils has created a "crisis".

Speaking at a Westminster forum in central London, Sir Al responded to criticism of the current implementation of Pupil Voice.

"Children say what they think adults want to hear; we must get better at talking to them," he said.

Sir Al, whose five-year term ends in 2010, has frequently used his position to speak out about conditions in schools.

He has criticised bullying complaints procedures and called for councils to provide independent mediation services to resolve bullying disputes. He has also criticised Sats.

Last week he called for improvements in youth justice and the way young asylum seekers are treated.

The trend for classroom consultation started after the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child came into force in 1989.

As part of Pupil Voice, children are asked to assess lessons and hold mock Ofsted inspections.

Unions have previously warned it provides opportunities for teachers to be manipulated, and that the prescriptive Government advice stops schools developing their own way of talking to children.

But Lesley Longstone, director general of young people at the Department for Children, Schools and Families, rejected the claim that listening to young people was a bad idea.

"By doing this you actually gain their respect, which you need to have authority," she said. "There are things we can learn from young people. We bring in lots of children when making policies at the DCSF."

Blackpool pupil Nicole Burke, who was also speaking at the event, said it was "always important" to listen to young people.

"I think adults always find answers which surprise them when they ask pupils questions," she said. "You get a real understanding and perspective. Children should be seen and heard."

Darren Northcott, assistant secretary of teaching union the NASUWT, said Pupil Voice helped to stop bad behaviour.

"It helps get a message across to children, and it helps them to work better with each other," he said.

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