For your voice to be valued you need to have something to say

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If someone stopped me in the street and asked what I thought about a particular topic would this count as the voice of the citizens of the UK or is it just my opinion. Similarly if we ask a group of students their opinion is it student voice? Offpert Questions

Student voice may actually be a misleading term therefore. Maybe what we should redefine it so that it is clear that it really means 'student empowerment' or 'student involvement in the democratic process' or 'student leadership' or even 'student agency'. With this new definition lets look at how we introduce genuine student voice within our schools.

Firstly, students require skills if they are to represent their peers. I defined the SECRET skills as the set required. These are

  • Self management: Incorporating reliability and resilience
  • Ethical and Effective participation in their community
  • Creativity: Incorporating problem solving and questioning assumptions
  • Reflective learning: Incorporating learning from their mistakes
  • Enquiry: Incorporating curiosity and researching the facts
  • Teamwork: leading and building teams

These are defined in greater detail here but essentially they represent the list of skills we need to build within students if we are to enable them to take an active and useful role at every level within the running of our schools.

If we construct opportunities for student voice carefully, these can double up as learning experiences for the students. I have for many years used such a 'curriculum of opportunities' to develop these skills. The latest version of this is an ambitious plan co-devised by the excellent 12-13 year old students from saltash.net Community School who were the first to present at a Microsoft Global Forum. Project Aspire is simple in design but ambitious in its aspiration. Essentially, students choose from a list of student voice/student leadership opportunities from this website. When they have independently completed the tasks they meet in an online meeting space to have students from other schools assess their work. Successful students then go on to assess others and so on, building the skills of self directed student voice as we go. The first sharing of projects is on 28th of this month (27th for uploading them and practicing). So far we have 20 students from 3 countries involved which is an excellent start for a project which has already served to empower the voices of students. If you know of students or a school that wishes to join just give them this link and leave it up to them.

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