Pupil Leadership and Pupil Voice | Parent Wellbeing Blog

The value schools place on pupil leadership and pupil voice gives a fascinating insight into the culture of the organisation. Some schools have pupil leadership as one of their fundamentals and ensure the profile and influence is profound. Other schools choose to have pupils appointed into senior positions but largely so they can carry out routine duties around the school. The profile can be high as the gowns or badges may be bright but the influence is limited as there are few ‘leadership’ opportunities. Limited leadership opportunities for pupils in schools tend to be accompanied by little in the way of pupil voice feeding into management decision making. In many respects, this is a safe option because schools can just carry on regardless of the views of the pupils and get on with what they know best: teaching and learning.

Throughout my time inspecting schools (I have done so for over 20 years) observing the profile of pupil leadership and pupil voice during school inspections was one of the most interesting and revealing aspects of school life. Most schools will claim to secure excellent academic results, build character, offer a broad range of experiences and activities, provide a high standard of pastoral care and educate the whole child. The straplines and web sites will have their own style and format but the claims will be fairly common. During an inspection, you looked beyond what the school claimed to do and judged it on the outcomes for the pupils. Although what schools claim to provide can be seen as broadly similar, the outcomes for pupils are profoundly different. The key outcomes for inspection purposes are pupil achievement with pupil personal development. All schools I inspected and judged as excellent in both categories had a consistently high profile to pupil leadership and pupil voice. This positive correlation is not really surprising nor is it surprising that pupil and parent questionnaires were much more positive toward the school when pupil leadership and pupil voice were prominent. I refer to pupil leadership and pupil voice together as I did not come across any school that had only one of these highly prominent; it was both or neither.

At MCM we pride ourselves in having a highly prominent pupil leadership and pupil voice. That is true throughout the College with pupils encouraged to take on a wide range of leadership roles. Many of our aspiring leaders comment on the positive influence senior students had on them when they were young and are very keen to have a similar effect on juniors. We have peer-mentoring, pastoral and wellbeing programmes in place across the college that are centred around the development of emotional intelligence, empathy, self-regulation and charitable giving. As well as learning to get excellent grades in their academic subjects, our pupils are learning to lead. They will take on significant leadership roles in later life and we make sure that they have a strong and ethical foundation for this throughout their time at MCM. A look at the global backdrop and some of the antics of major world leaders, it highlights a desperate need for our young to lead with greater integrity and purpose than we see at present.

The earlier pupils start in leadership positions, the more they can benefit from their experience. The feedback from pupils who have been in leadership roles is always positive and they greatly appreciate being able to give back and help others.

The higher the profile of pupil voice, the more pupils are encouraged to be constructively critical on many aspects of school life. They learn to express views and consider school improvement as something that ‘we do’ rather than ‘they do’. Pupil councils are effective channels for pupils to suggest improvements to school management. They also give pupils valuable experience in representing their year group or house in a particular forum (formally at MCM this would be through our Eco Council, Food Committee, Whole School Council or Digital Ambassadors – all led by Prefects and with separate committees for day and boarding). Learning to listen to the views of others and represent this in an official forum is another valuable lesson in life and one that is lived out by our pupils. The classic quote “Listen to understand rather than listen to respond” is much used in our leadership training and much visited in embracing ‘pupil voice’.

In summation, we believe pupil leadership and pupil voice are remarkably strong features of life at MCM and we are much richer as a result. When we look for evidence of this it is probably best to look to our senior leaders amongst our pupil body: our Year 13 prefects. On a recent training afternoon, I asked them to summarise their views on pupil leadership and on pupil voice. Who better to comment on pupil voice than the pupils themselves – over to them…

 

On leadership...

Student leadership is an opportunity for me to innovate something new that is beneficial to the pupil body. Being able to identify gaps and constraints in a school, allows for the development of creative solutions. Furthermore, it is also a unique opportunity to meet new people and forge relationships which will be beneficial to my growth and development. Although it's a very challenging role, it is also a very rewarding position. Student leadership helps to bring pupils together and allow for their opinions and concerns to be voiced, which is important for the development of the college community.

On leadership...

Personally, student leadership means being provided with the opportunity in a professional and comfortable environment to guide pupils whilst improving skills and taking on new challenges. I believe mistakes are inevitable and will be made along the path, however, one will recognise and learn from them. Student leadership plays a key role in the College as we are all one community, who look up to each other. It is important to have role models who have student leadership to close the gap between the pupils and beaks.

On leadership...

To me student leadership is when the pupils of a school decide to take action and initiative in fulfilling roles of responsibilities that affect those around them. It is crucial that every pupil is exposed to those responsibilities so that they may use those experiences in future to flourish in challenging environments after their time at Marlborough College.

On leadership...

When I think of the phrase ‘student leadership’, what comes to mind is the fine line that differentiates pupils that can, versus those that will lead. Student leaders are the individuals who inspire through everyday deeds. This means, these individuals emerge from our midst and find themselves in roles of leadership, not because of a desire to lead, instead, a desire for change. They are constantly striving to improve the status quo of the ‘we’, as opposed to the ‘I’. Thus, they lead among us and not above us. It’s important to acknowledge these characteristics in an MCM pupil as they are the ones that will encourage and support the student body as a whole. They take initiative and responsibility to positively affect the College’s overall environment.

On Leadership...

Student leadership to me means representing the pupil body ranging from pre prep to our classmates. I think that the most important part of student leadership is being a pair of ears for all pupils. In addition, I think that a key attribute of a student leader is being a strong role model and leading the student body by example in order to influence them in a positive manner.

On leadership...

Personally, student leadership is the ability to inspire other students to become better versions of themselves. This may come in the form of judging our own capacity, and sometimes taking a step back to allow other students to develop their own ideas and grow as Marlburians.

On Leadership...

I think that we often overlook the qualities of a person which makes them suited to be a leader. An authoritative and vocal pupil does not necessarily make one a good leader, rather it is their soft skills; the ability to efficiently communicate opinion, attentively listen to extract information and their richness of empathy in order to relate to various aspects of the school and its members in ways far deeper than the average person would. When they are engaged, student leaders embody the principles of the institution and, when they are in conversation, their thoughts and opinions combine the collective values of their peers-the pupil body. For MCM, these individuals are those who have personified compassion, companionship and conversation throughout their education of a life-time.

On leadership...

Student leadership, for me, means making a difference and providing a positive impact for the College. After being in Marlborough for seven years, I feel that it’s time for me to give back to the community. I am lucky enough to have had the opportunity to grow and follow every single change that has been made. Student leadership gives me a platform where I could represent on behalf of the pupil body and voice their opinions and change for the better for future generations. It is vital for us as prefects to guide younger generations through every experience and opportunity in Marlborough to allow them to blossom after their Marlborough experience.

 

On pupil voice...

Pupils of MCM are very vocal about both the improvements in the college and the necessary changes. MCM always offers them to speak their minds, never hesitating for anyone to contribute to making the college better. One of the ways I have been offered to propose my opinions was in the form of the food committee. It allowed me to suggest changes that fit everyone’s needs.

On pupil voice...

I believe that the college has many committees which are in place to aid the process of ensuring that pupils' voices are heard. The food committee, eco council and pupil council are all available for students to voice their concerns. In addition, the strong relationships which are built in each house are an excellent place for younger pupils to voice their opinions comfortably.

On pupil voice...

The ‘pupil voice’ is something that has been of importance since the opening of the College in 2012. During my eight years of experience in MCM, I’ve recognised the clear link between the student body and the school management team. A range of student-run committees, such as the ‘Day Pupil Council’, have been established for the core purpose of improving the lifestyle of an everyday student. These councils have allowed any MCM pupil to raise any concerns that may have been missed by the management team. This has facilitated change in the school and underlines the importance of student’s involvement for the headmastership.

On pupil voice...

‘Pupil voice’ is clearly something the College values, reflected in the numerous committees established and student positions which have been offered over the years. These are all outlets for the ‘pupil voice’ to be heard by members of the management.

On pupil voice...

After being a part of Marlborough for seven years, it is very apparent that ‘pupil voice’ is something that is highly regarded by the College. The College has proved that in many different ways by allowing prefects to chair various committees during the school term. One of which is the ‘boarding pupil’s committee'' where it allows boarders to suggest and voice their opinions and feedback about changes that could be made or kept to enable everyone to have the best boarding experience in Marlborough. Marlborough stands by its 3 C’s where one of which is ‘conversation’. The College is always open to changes and listens to student’s feedback to provide students with the best experience they can ever have in a boarding school.

On pupil voice...

My personal journey at MCM has seen the growth of the College from 2016. Pupil voice is an important aspect of student life at Marlborough and this is evident by the various committees the College has, which range from Eco Council Committee, to Food Committee and Day and Boarding Pupil Committee. The College is always accepting of feedback, especially from pupils, through initiatives such as google forms. Moreover, I believe the environment in which we find ourselves in addition adds to the comfort of not being afraid to raise issues with tutors or HMs.

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