Exploring the potential of a school council to facilitate pupil voice and school improvement in an English primary school

Avieson, Craig (2013). Exploring the potential of a school council to facilitate pupil voice and school improvement in an English primary school. EdD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.0000bfb5


This thesis explores the facilitation of pupil voice and how this might impact on school improvement in an English primary school. It is underpinned by theoretical frameworks that address children's rights, voice, participation, power relations and active. citizenship. Two formal mechanisms of facilitating children's voice are explored using an action
research approach. Firstly, a pilot study explores the possibilities offered by a 'children-asresearchers' initiative (Kellett, 2005a). Findings from this inform the main study where the focus shifts to the potential of school councils. Two action-research cycles are used to evaluate the effectiveness and impact of both pupil voice mechanisms. Following research skills training, six mixed-ability children (aged 9 - 10 years) were supported in conducting independent research into a range of child-initiated issues that they identified. Data were collected through participant observations, a reflective journal and the actuality of the children's research. Areas of research explored by the children included: 'Why do Year 8s receive more praise than Year 5s?' 'Do boys receive more pocket money than girls?' 'In what areas of school are you more likely to be bullied?' The long-term sustainability of this initiative raises issues around time, resources and the inclusion of all children. Subsequently, cycles one and two focused on developing an effective school council system, which incorporated the principles of children-as-researchers and influenced school improvement. Data were generated through analysis of school council minutes, observations, field notes and interviews with children and staff. Four themes emerged: organisation of school council meetings, facilitating the views of all children, training for children and support from senior staff. Each of these themes was explored in further depth and eight specific adjustments to the school council were subsequently implemented and evaluated through further interviews and analysis of school council documents. Final analysis suggests that gathering the views of all children, alongside specific training for school councillors are both pertinent issues which impact upon pupil voice and school improvement. The findings provide further evidence that school leaders have a significant influence in facilitating pupil voice and active citizenship. The study highlights the challenges of maintaining a dual role as researcher and practitioner. Findings suggest that national policy and inspection frameworks need to provide better support to headteachers for school council development in primary schools since this could lead to transformative pupil voice and school improvement.

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