The Department of Education (DE) is keen to support all schools to have structures in place which allow pupils to have a real say in issues that affect them and to know that their opinions count. There are a number of ways in which schools can choose to help achieve effective pupil participation. For many, this can be through a school council.
What is a school council?
A school council is a formal group of pupils within a school who are elected by their peers to represent them and their views.
Why have a school council?
There are lots of reasons.
Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) says that children and young people should have a say in decisions that affect their lives. A school council can provide a meaningful way in which pupils can voice their opinions and have their views taken into account in decisions which impact upon them.
Experience from schools here and further afield shows that a school council that is supported and nurtured helps to improve many aspects of school life.
It is an important and useful way for schools to provide leadership and development opportunities for their pupils.
Within the school curriculum, one of the key areas making up the ‘Learning for Life and Work’ theme is active participation. The curriculum requires that young people are provided with opportunities to participate in school and society. School councils are an excellent way in which to increase participation, teaching young people about democracy, local and glogal citizenship and accountability.
Where do I start?
DE encourages those schools wishing to establish a school council to adopt the 'Democra-School' programme developed by the Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY).
The programme is designed to support and encourage the development of meaningful school councils and the practice of democracy in the school environment.
If your school is interested in this, more information can be found within the Democra-School guidance pack which gives detailed practical advice on how to set up a school council and steps that can be taken to involve pupils in school councils.
The pack was developed with the co-operation and involvement of teachers, pupils, and key officials from the former Education and Library Boards (now the Education Authority) and DE.
The guidance can be downloaded on the NICCY website
The Democra-School pack provides a range of other resources, outlined below, which can assist with establishing and operating a sucessful school council including a number of sample forms which schools will find helpful.
Information is provided on
- election guidelines
- the 'first past the post' system
- sample nomination form for school council
- the 'proportional representation' system
- roles and resonsibities of key positions within a school council
- student council action plan template
- school council meeting minutes template
For further advice, the DE circular on pupil participation, available below, will assist schools in identifying and implementing the method and degree of participation which best suits the needs of their pupils