Encouraging ‘pupil participation’; exploring school practices, benefits and challenges

Assignment type: Essay
Author: Abi Sharpe
Submitted: November 2017

The requirement for schools to listen to pupils’ views on their education is now endorsed in both government policy and law. Researchers have found that young people have useful things to say about their education, and yet pupil participatory practices are not embedded in schools. Throughout this essay, Hart’s (1992) ladder of participation is used as a framework to consider the different levels of effective participation. School councils are a popular participatory practice in schools but are not always seen as an effective method of eliciting pupils’ views. Studies suggest that appropriate planning and a change of school ethos is key to their success. Research has also been conducted into how teachers engage pupils in giving feedback on teaching and learning. Findings indicate that individual differences amongst teachers can impact on their engagement in participation, and resulting practices can vary in the degree to which they would be considered participatory. The limited research into democratic schools highlights promising outcomes for their pupils but the prospect of similar approaches working in mainstream schools raises a number of challenges. This essay concludes that engaging in effective pupil participatory practices in schools has the potential to result in a range of positive outcomes. Policy makers and schools need to consider the degree of decision-making or influence they want to give to pupils. They may also require more training and guidance to make participatory practices effective. Educational Psychologists are well placed to support this process both at a whole school and policy level.

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