Ed Dickie, Head of Claremont Senior School, explains how prioritising communication with students is key to a school’s evolution
Experience has taught me that the success or failure of new initiatives, designed to transform an area of the school perceived to be underperforming or outdated, is often defined by the extent to which the most important element in the process has been consulted and considered: the students.
Consulting students is a hallmark of a good school, something acknowledged by both Ofsted and ISI, but the quality of this consultation can vary. At Claremont we have been considering the role of student voice for some time, and have concluded that we want to be an organisation where student leadership is at the very heart of what we do; a student led school where the role of teachers and senior staff increasingly becomes a guiding and facilitating one.
We have established an ‘Equality Commission’ that seeks to shine the light of diversity into all areas of the school. Precipitated by student feedback, this commission looks into curriculum, school operations, HR and much more. We have also redesigned our student leadership structure; basing it around areas such as Communications and Wellbeing, the students work closely with our marketing and pastoral teams to identify how best to improve the school. The next phase is to bring the student voice into the classroom, with students able to give immediate feedback on the quality of their own learning, and teachers able to shape and adapt their pedagogy accordingly.
Rules, clear parameters and systems are all vital when guiding and developing young people. But a good school is also a living thing, able to evolve and adapt to a changing environment. Placing our students at the heart of the conversation has, in our experience, been good for the students and good for the school – giving them a voice, allowing them to be themselves while also giving them a real sense of ownership and pride in their school community.
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