Pupils driving change at The Hampshire School, Chelsea
Dr Pamela Edmonds, Headteacher of The Hampshire School, Chelsea, explains how the school’s Pupil Driving Change initiative shows that working together and promoting Pupil Voice and engagement leads to improved outcomes.
The Hampshire School Chelsea’s Pupil Voice programme is based on a firm belief that pupils have a unique perspective on their educational provision and its impact on their outcomes. Here, I describe how it works in practice.
As a result, the pupils demonstrate the conviction that their voice is heard and acted upon; they are valued as individuals and the pupils know that they are crucial to the collaborative endeavour to enhance the learning environment for all. To that end, ‘pupils driving change’ is a key focus for the school’s development. Therefore, through our ‘Pupil Voice into Action’ programme, we ensure that all pupils have opportunities to make a real and valued difference to the progression of the school.
In place of a traditional school council structure, we run six development groups formed of eight pupils from Years 1 – Year 8; Eco, Community, Mind Body and Soul, Food Forum, Innovative Technology and Houses. Every Development Group focuses on improving key aspects of school provision. The Pupil Voice Programme includes a weekly timetabled lesson, known as PVWT (Pupil Voice and Wellbeing Time). During these lessons, we listen to the pupils’ narratives about their experiences at school and then encourage them to drive change by contributing to decision-making. In turn, the pupils develop a better understanding and a positive attitude towards active citizenship.
To date, some pupil voice-driven initiatives have included:
- Wellbeing Week – to launch whole school initiatives to support emotional and physical health at school and remotely.
- Green Day – leading a greener life at school and how changing our behaviour can affect ecosystems.
- Community Day – A Red Nose Day Fundraising event with parents and the local community.
- Tech Day – to develop a love of coding and to improve the way we can further integrate technology into the pupils’ learning such as cyberbullying presentations from the pupils during Anti-Bullying Week 2020.
- Half-Measures Catering Initiative – where sugar on the school menu was reduced by 50%. The Food Development Group also expanded its healthy eating initiative and set up an instant feedback system on the current catering provision.
This term, the Houses Development Group has driven a rebranded House system to connect further with our local community. Focusing on blue plaques, this initiative involves the whole school researching the rich and diverse contribution of notable residents to the history of the borough of Kensington and Chelsea. The pupils’ efforts has resulted in: Franklin, Scott, Marley and Pankhurst as the new House names.
In addition, in preparation for UN Day, pupils worked in groups to share their views by creating a list of agreements (conventions) for teachers to follow on the theme of ‘The UN is successful at developing friendly relations among nations’.
Pupil engagement is embedded in all aspects of school life but for success, it is important for the pupil’s to express their views and engage in decision-making and debate. In the weekly Pupil Assemblies, we share opinions and discuss key initiatives with the whole community. The ‘Pair Talk’ protocol, where pupils talk to a peer or pupil from a different year group about the assembly’s focus, encourages pupils of all ages, including our youngest in Pre-School, to stand up and speak to the entire assembly and confidently share their thoughts.
At the whole school policy level, pupils have helped shape the Code of Conduct which illustrates how certain positive behaviours bring the school’s five core values of: respect, responsibility, resilience, excellence and community to life. For example, community on the playground means: “We are kind and helpful, we are honest, we allow others to join in with our games and we ensure that our games do not spoil the fun of others unnecessarily”. The shaping of this document proved to the pupils that their views are valued in an area of school life that is very important and personal to them.
As part of this process, at the pupils’ request, the popular playground game Tag was transformed into an acronym to support playground behaviour management. TAG represents: T – “Tell the other person how their behaviour makes you feel,” A – “Ask them to stop,” G – “Get help”. The pupils’ voice has therefore helped create a system, summarised in a simple mnemonic, which empowers pupils to recognise, address and tackle bullying behaviour, helping to establish an environment where bullying is not acceptable.
It would be hard to find any pupil, in any school, of any age, ability or background, who does not hold strong opinions about what makes them want to engage with a lesson and our ‘Together We Can’ ethos promotes partnerships with all stakeholders.
Pupil Voice at The Hampshire School Chelsea is not limited to pupils’ views on lunchtime provision, break time activities and community fundraising events; it includes listening to their views on teaching and learning and making learning visible. Following its success, the Parent Representatives Committee is now the Parent Voice Committee with the wider school community having an involvement in driving positive change at the school.