Participation and Whole School Improvement

John Holmes


The idea that schools should give children a say in the running of the school is widely supported by educationalists (Hannock and Mansfield, 2002, p.1-2). It is also at the heart of citizenship education. The final report of the Advisory Group on Citizenship, chaired by Professor Bernard Crick, is littered with examples of good citizenship practice stemming from pupil involvement in schools, and states that citizenship education concerns itself with the ?Ǩdevelopment of pupils into active citizens?ǨѢ (Crick, 1998, p. 40), and with giving pupils ?Ǩthe skills ?Ǩ relevant to the nature of participative democracy?ǨѢ (p. 40). It only forgoes recommending that school councils should be legally compulsory ?Ǩfor fear of overburdening schools and teachers?ǨѢ (p.25). It is perhaps unsurprising, then, that the national curriculum recommends that in citizenship education, ?Ǩknowledge and understanding are acquired and applied when developing skills of ?Ǩ participation and responsible action?ǨѢ (National Curriculum Online). However, even among those schools that have taken the citizenship education programme seriously, opportunities for students to develop skills of participation and responsible action are often absent or lacking, either through reluctance to make the changes necessary to give students a voice, or a failure to recognise that citizenship education requires schools to make such changes. Schools that have reluctantly approached citizenship education tend to have even worse records regarding student participation.

In this essay I intend to examine one reason for schools to support full-blooded student participation, thereby implementing one aspect of the citizenship curriculum. I shall claim that schools with full-blooded student participation have higher student attainment than schools without student participation. I shall begin by giving a more robust definition of ?Ǩstudent participation?ǨѢ, before summarizing the empirical evidence linking it and an improvement in student attainment. I shall then offer two of several possible reasons for the correlation, namely improved student motivation and improved learning behaviour, and analyse the ways in which these may be affected by student participation.

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Editor-in-Chief: Prof Norbert Pachler
UCL Institute of Education, University College London
ISSN 1746-9082

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