What do pupils think about you and your school?

24th April 2009 at 01:00
Children's champion launches survey quizzing young people as he battles for their rights

Children are being asked what they think makes a good school and a good teacher.

Keith Towler, the children's commissioner for Wales, ordered the national survey to find out whether young people were happy with their education and where they thought it could be improved.

Hundreds of young people have given feedback as part of the Making Learning Better project. The research was suggested and voted for by children, and the findings - due to be published this autumn - will be used to inform trainee teachers.

It is hoped new teachers will listen to pupils more as a result and share the feedback with their heads, ensuring greater understanding of youngsters' needs. Mr Towler also hopes the study will give children a chance to praise their teachers, giving the profession a welcome boost.

In an interview with TES Cymru, he said children must become more involved in what they learn at school in order to raise standards.

"This is going to be about what makes a good school. We are asking children what they think is a good learning experience and how things should be in the classroom," he said.

But listening to pupils is just one way of bringing about change. Schools should be doing more to alter attitudes towards children by becoming media savvy, he said.

"Teachers have a role to play in turning around negative stereotypes of children," he said. "Schools are our best kept secret. The kind of things that are going on in them are simply not celebrated enough."

Since his appointment in March last year, Mr Towler has received dozens of requests for visits from schools. But he believes his greatest work has been in championing children's rights in Wales and Europe.

Later this year, his office will publish a report on children in Wales who care for parents and siblings.

Last year, it published a shocking report that found significant evidence of the trafficking of children as young as three into Wales.

There was still a "culture of disbelief" over the findings, Mr Towler said. "Even professionals have to pinch themselves to recognise that a child might have been trafficked into Wales and be forced into domestic servitude or the sex industry."

The report recommended that the Assembly government should investigate whether the training of public sector workers - including teachers - adequately raises awareness of child trafficking.

"We have good child protection systems in Wales and we should use them if we are concerned," said Mr Towler. "If there are suspicions, teachers should act on them."

He also intends to campaign against unofficial exclusions - where heads make arrangements for difficult pupils to be home tutored.

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