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Pupil Participation Project: Background

Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC) sets out the right of children and young people to express an opinion and to have that opinion taken into account on any matter that affects them.

We have formally adopted the UNCRC as the basis of all its work. This commitment has been emphasised in ‘Rights to Action’ 2004, and more recently in Partnership and Planning Guidance under the Children Act 2004.

Getting it right

The recently launched UNCRC Action Plan for Wales ‘Getting it right’ sets out how we and our partners will take forward actions to strengthen participation in school, the classroom and any learning setting. We aim to increase opportunities for all children and young people in Wales to participate in decision-making on issues which affect them.

A holistic model of participation

Participation in a school context is far wider than the school council. Schools should aim to develop holistic models so that all pupils have the opportunity to take part in consultation and decision-making and to participate in a variety of ways and at a number of levels.

This can include work with the Senior Management Team and Governors to contribute to, implement and review key policies and staff appointments; involvement in teaching and learning; the opportunity to be active on the school council and other representative groups (e.g. Healthy Schools and Eco-schools) and involvement in peer support and education.

Benefits

Research and case study examples suggest that developing children and young people’s participation is beneficial for individuals, organisations and communities. Pupils who participate in decision-making enjoy enhanced self-esteem and motivation, gain important personal, social and organisational skills, and become familiar with group and democratic processes.

At the organisational level, pupil involvement in decision-making leads to better relationships, more relevant and effective policies, and better learning. In the best scenarios, pupils and adults work together as partners to ensure that their school provides the best possible learning environment for all. Pupils have an important part to play in helping their school to improve in every aspect of school life.