When @Cherrylkd and I discussed establishing @SENexchange, we were very concious of how broad an area SEN is and we wanted to ensure that it is relevant to the whole SEN community. For this reason we invited our @SENexchange folllowers to suggest possible areas for discussion which we collated into a blog http://wp.me/p5Qdrj-1q. At this time, I added a discussion topic of my own: Pupil voice
Pupil voice is something I am very passionate about and something we have done alot of work on in my own school @Camberwell Park camberwellpark.manchester.dbprimary.com. If our pupils are at the heart of our school , then for me, pupil voice must be an integral part of the school ethos. For us, this starts with being a Unicef Rights Respecting School and ensuring appropriate access for the children to all articles within the UNCRC http://www.unicef.org.uk/Documents/Publication-pdfs/UNCRC_summary.pdf. Indeed Article 23 of the UNCRC spells out our responsibility to ensure children with a disability play an active role in their community, for me having a voice is an important part of this and as @MaryMyatt reminded us in a recent tweet to @SENexchange, it should also be considered as part of ‘British Values’ and SMSC in the school.
As the pupils in my own school have a range of learning needs ranging from more moderate learning difficulties, right through to profound and multiple learning difficulties, sharing their views is not always quite so easy and I believe it is up to us to find a way of supporting and enabling their voice to be heard not just within the school but beyond the school.
A couple of years ago, as a school we appointed a person with a ‘teaching and learning responsibility’ (TLR) to look at how we support pupil voice in their own learning and how we meaningfully implement it across school. What emerged was our 7 stages of pupil voice (video clips and other resources held in the school exemplify each of the stages):
Stage 1- Adult to notice child’s reaction to activity/ experience and give the child the language to describe this
Stage 2- Child to eye-point to demonstrate choice
Stage 3- Child to reach towards or touch object/ symbol/ switch to indicate choice
Stage 4- Child to independently indicate choice by grasping and moving object/ using voice/ signing
Stage 5- Child to say what they have done well or need to try harder with
Stage 6- Child to say what they could do next time to improve
Stage 7- Child to comment on their peer’s achievements
These 7 stages are mainly about children being involved in their learning and their involvement in setting the priority targets for learning and having child friendly Individual Education Plans is part of this too. Pupil self-evaluation of their own learning is now embedded into all classrooms.
Over the last few years in the school, we have developed pupil involvement in whole school self evaluation and school improvement and how we hear the voice of our pupils in a range of ways including developing the running of the school council to ensure pupils have opportunities to discuss a wider range of whole school issues and involving pupils on our learning walks around school to hear their views on aspects such as displays, behaviour and safety, total communication etc, Our pupils are now also regularly involved in recruitment of new staff. The school council have written their own person pupil person specification which goes out with information / application packs. Where appropriate pupils are involved in interview panels asking questions relating to their person specification.
It is also important to me to consider how the views of our pupils are represented beyond our school. I appreciated a tweet from @anameescapesme when the discussion topic regarding pupil voice was first tweeted on @senexchange reminding us about the challenges of LAs listening to the views of our children and young people. At Camberwell Park, the pupils have always been involved in their annual reviews of their Statement of Special Educational Needs, and we have ensured this continues with the change over to Education, Health, Care Plans ( EHCPs). Our pupil voice booklet http://tinyurl.com/np5vjfw is prepared by the pupils supported by one of the classroom staff prior to the review and the pupil attends their review to share their views with others. Their views are included in the minutes booklet is attached and forms part of the appendices in the EHCPs.
Another important area we have been exploring and developing in terms of pupil voice is that of safeguarding. Our children and young people with learning difficulties are very vulnerable. Giving our pupils the vocabulary and enabling them to have a voice about what is safe, not safe, tell us when they are worried, scared, upset, being bullied etc is really important. Our frustration at how the views and experience of our pupils are disregarded when there have been allegations of abuse has led us as a school to look at how we can support our pupil voice in this area too.
Our ‘pupil voice’ work is by no means a finished product and we are concious of how in our best endeavours to allow pupils a choice, for our some of less able or more complex children the choices we give them are often guided and limited by those which we offer. We would of course use our knowledge of the children and information about the children by others that know them even better than us such as their parents in the choices we have available. We continue to explore however, how we can make pupil voice more meaningful with the bank of strategies we have available. In addition to total communication strategies of signing and symbols, the range of AAC ( Augmentative and alternative communication) products open up new possibilities for us: Ipads, E-tran frames http://www.communicationmatters.org.uk/page/e-tran-frames use of PODD ( Pragmatic Organisation Dynamic Display) Communication Books:http://www.inclusive.co.uk/podd-p6023 and more recently exploration of how we can use Talking mats http://www.talkingmats.com/ are just a few examples. Use of P4C ( Philosophy for Children) throughout the school has also very mjuch supported the ability of our pupils to express their views on a range of important topics.
To end where I started this blog – Pupil voice is an area I am very passionate about and keen to discuss with others – I know there is alot we can ‘exchange’ and learn from each other in this area so really hope that people will join with us on @SENexchange at 7.30 p.m. on Wed 29th April to chat further. My blog only represents my views and the experience of Camberwell Park School. Would be so good to hear from the experience of others – both mainstream and special and from parents / carers too about how they would like to work with schools to get the views of their child considered.
Our children and young people deserve to be heard – it is our job to ensure they are!