Youngsters at a Leeds school are being given their say – boosting outcomes and creating happier classrooms.
PUPILS at a Leeds school have been handed the chance to have their voices heard in key decisions affecting their education.
Pupils at Carr Manor Community School are included in discussions surrounding the curriculum and staff appointments, as well as a wide range of day to day school procedures and events.
The move is part of a strategy developed by senior teachers at the school designed to encourage pupils to feel highly engaged in their learning. They say they’ve found young people who feel more connected with how their school operates, the way they learn and their local community, go on to experience a range of benefits and improved outcomes.
The school’s initiatives include pupil focus groups set up to help shape the curriculum. A curriculum model is discussed through a series of sessions before being presented to pupils and parents through letters, videos and face-to- face conversations.
Pupil panels also take part in recruitment processes for every new appointment in the school, from learning support team members right up to senior leadership.
There are also over 100 school council representatives and 32 house captains, while every pupil has the chance to have their say in coaching group sessions, regular surveys and meetings.
According to the school’s Executive Principal Mr Flowers, involving young people in key decisions surrounding their own education and day to day school life, along with rewarding good effort, are vital components in helping them feel more engaged. In turn, that means they are more likely to succeed.
“We want to encourage and enable pupils to ‘choose to’ and ‘want to’ learn, as this is when it becomes meaningful and focused,” he said. “When it is meaningful and focused, pupils usually exceed expectations.”
Assistant Principal, James Dunford, agreed: “Pupils must be included in their learning in order to grasp the purpose and relevance of education.
“If they are to thrive, they need to understand why they are studying a subject and why a certain topic is worthwhile.”
“In a classroom, pupils should be actively engaged, intellectually curious and working as independently as possible.”
“These goals cannot be achieved if they are not included in their learning.”
Senior staff at the school – one of only three in Leeds that offers ‘all through’ education for children from four right up to 19 – engage with pupils from the moment they arrive, so they feel they have crucial input in their own education and future.
They work hand in hand with pupils and go on to create personal development pathways based around a range of activities – from baking to rock climbing -selected to meet their personal interests.
Mr Flowers added: “We talk about options and different pathways as soon as children join us, refining the information as they mature, so that they can make good decisions based upon their abilities and aspirations.”
“It is important for pupils to know and understand their own strengths and areas for development so that they can take some responsibility for their own learning.”
Eight Steps To Success
The school has identified eight key routes to engagement which it believes helps deliver better pupil outcomes, a more harmonious school, better attendance and stronger links with the community.
1. Positive reinforcement through rewards and phone calls home.
2. Working on changing the mind-set of pupils to increase participation in lessons, further learning and extra-curricular activities.
3. Motivating and encouraging pupils through restorative conversations.
4. Finding out why pupils don’t participate by engaging with school council representatives.
5. Working with pupils to find out what activities they enjoy doing and what encourages them to attend.
6. Offering leadership opportunities for those who do take part.
7. Holding Flexible Learning at different times of the day, at weekends and during the holidays.
8. Peer mentoring programmes.
The engagement strategy extends to the outside community, so pupils can see the opportunities available beyond the school gates.
“Making links with local, national and international organisations helps broaden the pupils’ aspirations,” said Senior Manager for Personal Development and Wellbeing Matthew Skinner.
“Work with charities encourages entrepreneurial skills as well as providing pupils with the opportunity to understand how good it feels to do something for others.”
“Professionals visiting school help pupils make links between where they are now in their school career and where they could be five or ten years, or even further in the future.”
For further information on how Carr Manor Community School could help your child feel engaged in their education, visit www.carrmanor.org.uk.