Pupil Voice Week 2023 is back for its 8th year. Celebrated from September 25th to the 29th, this annual event has been a resounding success, with last year's theme of 'Solving Problems' bringing together over 600 schools and engaging 320,000 pupils in meaningful conversations. This year’s theme "Make your voice count" resonates deeply with us as a Trust and emphasises the incredible power that children and young people hold to shape the world around them.
Empowering Young Voices at the House of Lords
Recently, REAch2 Academy Trust's pupils had a remarkable opportunity to showcase the significance of their voices. They visited the House of Lords and engaged with Diana Barran, where they expressed their perspectives on a wide range of topics. For many of these children, it was their first trip to London, adding a layer of excitement to their adventure.
Guided by Baroness Barran, the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State for Education, these pupils actively participated in a thought-provoking debate. The discussion centred on the essence of effective leadership in education, with our pupil parliamentarians eloquently expressing the importance of having a voice in their educational journey and the substantial role their input should play in shaping decisions within schools.
Nurturing Aspirations Through Pupil Voice
At REAch2 Academy Trust, there is a wholehearted commitment to nurturing the aspirations of all our pupils across our family of 60 schools. Experiences like these ignite inspiration in young minds. Our newly launched Pupil Parliament initiative stands as a crucial stepping-stone in the journey for students to realise the power of their voices. Olivia from Camulos Academy in Colchester beautifully summed up the sentiment, stating, "A pupil parliament for REAch2 is important because REAch2 has thousands of children, and that's a lot of voices that haven't been heard." Their voices matter, and the Trust is devoted to ensuring they are heard.
Why Pupil Voice Matters
Pupil voice is not merely a concept; it's a right enshrined in Article 12 of The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. It emphasises that every child has the right to express their views, feelings, and wishes in all matters affecting them, and that these views should be taken seriously. In primary education, this right is central to the moral purpose of educators, who seek to ensure that every child's voice is heard and valued.
Pupil voice not only gives children responsibility but also nurtures collaboration, leadership, and negotiation skills. While it guides the curriculum in the early years, it remains equally important as children progress through school. It's crucial to create spaces where pupils feel comfortable voicing their opinions and where their interests can shape the learning experience.
The Power of Pupil Voice Recognised by Ofsted
Pupil voice is not only valued by educators and students but also by education authorities. Ofsted recognizes its importance and has incorporated it into their inspection framework, particularly under the "Personal Development" aspect. They expect schools to provide opportunities for pupils to have their say on matters affecting them, evaluate the extent to which pupils are engaged in their own learning, and consider their views when making decisions.
Promoting Pupil Voice: Key Strategies
To ensure the continuous promotion of pupil voice, schools can consider implementing the following strategies:
Establish a culture of pupil leadership: Encourage pupils to take on leadership roles and responsibilities within the school community, fostering an environment where their voices matter.
Create opportunities for pupil input and feedback: Regularly gather pupil opinions, ideas, and feedback through surveys, focus groups, and other channels.
Promote inclusive practices: Ensure that all pupils, regardless of background or ability, can participate in pupil voice initiatives.
Empowering Young Voices for a Sustainable Future
We eagerly anticipate the continued development of our REAch2 Pupil Parliament throughout this year, as we embark on an exciting journey of continuing to foster genuine pupil voice across our schools. Our plans extend beyond individual schools to encompass entire clusters, where our schools are grouped geographically and ultimately, we aim to take our pupils' voices back to the heart of democracy, the Houses of Parliament, in June 2024.
One of the driving forces behind this endeavour is our Sustainability strategic goal, which is driven by the motivation of our children. Our pupils are eager to become more actively involved in shaping the future, and they will do so through a series of engaging debates and discussions, focussing on crucial topics such as:
"How can I help the planet to survive?"
"What should be included in a sustainability curriculum?"
"What should transportation look like in 20 years' time?"
The culmination of these pupil voice discussions will be a powerful debate led by Baroness Barran, titled "The Earth is Angry." This final debate will serve as a poignant reminder of the urgent need for collective action and the vital role that young voices play in addressing the challenges our planet faces.
In essence, the importance of pupil voice cannot be overstated. It is the driving force behind positive change in our schools, our communities, and our world. It empowers pupils, nurtures their leadership skills, and instils in them a sense of responsibility for shaping the future. Through initiatives like the REAch2 Pupil Parliament and events like Pupil Voice Week, we amplify the voices of our young learners, ensuring that their perspectives are not only heard but also acted upon.
Their voices are not just the voices of tomorrow; they are the voices that can and will change the world today.