‘Pupil voice’ – oh how I hate that phrase!!
The forced manner by which some schools artificially seek the views of the students sits uneasily within the context of SENCos’ work as advocates of vulnerable and unheard young people.
As a SENCo, and throughout my teaching career, I have always sought the views of the students I have worked with. Not in a ‘piece-meal’ manner – ticking boxes and ensuring spurious criteria are met – but with a genuine desire for the students to feel ownership of decisions that affect them.
The Code of Practice (2004) provides guidance for provision – a framework from which the specific additional needs of young people are addressed, monitored and reviewed. Its ethos encourages the full participation of young people in the processes involving their education.
We do it anyway, as a matter of course. But how many SENCos are encouraged by their schools to support empty ‘pupil voice’ gestures – often stand-alone meetings or questionnaires not embedded in quality provision and therefore not directly ensuring quality teaching and learning?
Paying ‘lip-service’ to the thoughts and feelings of the students does no one any favours. Really including the thoughts of the students in all decisions about the school creates a truly inclusive ethos.
I think that as a SENCo I am well skilled in addressing difficult situations with students and seeking their views honestly, openly and without hidden agendas or prejudice. So why are those skills not used for whole school consideration?
Maybe your school does actively seek to hear the voices of all your students. I know we try. But do we actually listen? Can we really hear their voices?