Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Student Voice - and they will hold their own!!

Student voice - almost hidden from sight but not from being heard!
Two different events in the last few days where student voice continued to impress those that considered themselves 'experts'.
One, a mid term design review for a new school last week. It was great to see student representatives amongst the architects, builders, elected members and local authority staff. Not only did the students present have a view - they defended it rigorously to all, irrespective of position. It was really quite funny to see experienced architects commenting that they would not like to take these four foot nothing students on in debate, and then wondering if they wanted a job. It was just fab to watch.
Even better, being involved in the whole design process over months to get to this day had really effected their thought on their own future. One was really quite clear that he wanted to be a scientist. This was a direct result of all the work they had on sustainability and its contribution to school design during the process so far.
The second event was this week, in a very different town in another part of the UK. They are just considering the start of their BSF bid. Whilst authority representatives were discussing the steps they had undertaken so far, they admitted that they had undertaken a lot of student engagement and and been blown away by the responses they had got, with many ideas that they simply had not thought of! They really did seem surprised about just how engaged the students had been and what strong views they had.
Not sure why really - lots of people have been saying for a very long time that, given the chance, students do want to get involved with their learning, certainly can contribute and happy to work with adults in helping develop ideas. that is ........ if we ask them!
The two events were very different - but at least both, in their different ways acknowledged the potential power of student voice. Long may it continue.


Anonymous said...

A general question.
Do you think that badly behaved children will change if they are moved into a more modern learning environment? I have raed much about bsf but am not quite convinced that it would solve our problems. The authority is pushing ahead with closing special schools and reintegrating those pupils into mainstream. I have no experience of special ed.

Gareth Long said...

Changing to a high quality learning environment has been shown to change how students respond in many cases. There is an increasing body of research to support this.

Much more importantly is what is done in new learning environments and how they are used. There is no point just repeating traditional practice over and over again and expecting things to improve just because the building is different.

Much more importantly is the preparation (CPD) that students and staff get before moving into new spaces. This crucial work takes as long as designing the spaces and building them and is the area that is most overlooked. It is bonkers!

Typically this most important factor is the one thing that BSF has no specific budget for - change management money is tied up in ICT budgets but often that is about kit in lessons not developing and working on pedagogy.

Where authorities are doing it well (and some most certainly are), then the benefits and value added are already showing. The picture is not universally good however - for a variety of reasons...

Increasing Inclusion does have real benefits, especially for those students who previously were in spaces without a full entitlement of resources.

Increasingly popular in the UK is the concept of co-locating SEN schools with mainstream schools. Where these work best, (where the schools are literally joined), students can ebb and flow through either school depending on need, abilities and resources.

I think no one is suggesting SEN students just being merged into school without considerable support and resource to support them. That would be against everyone's rights!

I bang on about it all the time but CPD is just so crucial if we really are going to make a step change to our education system. Tinkering and using tiny elements of new ideas with no opportunities for staff to see just how they work - in their own spaces, with their own students, within the context of improving results, Ofsted etc, will not hack it.