Pupil voice is almost like a kind of magic, capable of transforming a school community. It pulls teachers and families closer together, focusing their thoughts on the key players in education – the children.
In the early years and the beginnings of primary school, pupil voice is a catalyst for learning, guiding and directing the route and shape that the curriculum takes. As children learn through play, practitioners are constantly observing, adapting and questioning in response to the ideas, curiosities and imaginative storylines of their pupils.
However, as pupils progress up the school, the opportunities for pupils to lead their learning can fade. This isn’t always the fault of practitioners: the curriculum becomes more complex and the subject matter deepens. As more challenging concepts take longer to explain and longer to practise (whilst teachers also need to ensure there is adequate space for revision of previously covered material), educators begin to find our most valuable asset squeezed. No, not gluestick lids: time.
Pupil voice: What students want from teachers
Yet, it’s so important that we find the time to listen to our pupils. It’s so important to create supportive and welcoming spaces where pupils feel they can voice their opinions. It’s so important to park our lesson plans and progressions, pivot and act upon the interests of the children in our classrooms.
The power of pupil voice
Pupil voice – or student voice – builds a true sense of community as pupils are championed to take their skills and involve themselves in pertinent discussions around the direction of the school. As well as providing children with a great deal of responsibility, it nurtures collaboration, leadership and negotiation skills. I feel it’s also key to note that I’m not alone in recognising improvements in behaviour when spaces for pupil voice are found.
Through pausing, listening and providing space in the school day, this year my pupils have set up a collection point working directly with our local food bank. They have performed their own mini-military tattoo, led a Christmas parade, developed daily maths revision tasks and even established a happiness squad to cheer pupils out of the school at the end of the day. They have directed our journey through the curriculum, choosing topics and suggesting ways in which we could tackle specific outcomes. Ultimately, they haven’t just been recipients of teacher talk and dutifully completing my worksheets: they have been invaluable partners in the delivery of their own education.
I’ve recently made a foray into the world of podcasting with my own channel – although, truth be told, I don’t do much of the talking.
I am so excited to share this 🎉— Blair Minchin (@Mr_Minchin) April 27, 2021
I’m entering the world of podcasting speaking to PUPILS to get their take on primary teaching.
What they enjoy, how they learn best, what value they see in what is taught, tips for teachers & much, much more.
Wee intro: https://t.co/CX9lgsC5IW pic.twitter.com/8QnqvzSxXh
Pupil Voices is another space where children are championed and empowered to speak their mind about their education. They tell me how they like to learn, weigh up the value in what we teach and even provide tips for educators and school leaders. Having only recorded one episode, I’ve already had a heap of insight to chew on.
Even at this early stage, I’m left in no doubt that my teaching will evolve and improve as I continue to seek out the magical effects of pupil voice – and let it influence every aspect of my practice.
Blair Minchin is a primary teacher in Edinburgh. He tweets @Mr_Minchin