VocalEyes and Dialogue Exchange have formed a partnership to support Participatory Democracy in educational contexts.
As part of this work we are writing a series of blogs. This is the first in that series.

A Framework for Implementation

Pupil Voice is an important aspect of education in Wales where the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC, 1989) is statutory. The UNCRC sets out a set of participation rights for children that includes the right to a voice, to be listened to, to exercise agency and negotiate meanings with others.

The aim in Wales is for fundamental children’s rights’ principles to become embedded within the policies and practices of all who work with and on behalf of children and young people. Many schools want to go beyond the statutory requirement to establish a School Council to fully integrate pupil voice into the school community. Cardiff is on a three year journey to become the first Child Friendly City in Wales and is committed to continuous consultation with Children and Young People (CYP).

Student Representatives being introduced to
Cllr Sarah Merry, Deputy Leader, Cabinet Member for Education

VocalEyes is a digital platform to support Pupil Voice in schools with the capability of being embedded in the curriculum.

VocalEyes has created a Participatory Democracy approach to continuous consultation with young people that is designed to be implemented by a trained digital community in the school with ongoing support from VocalEyes and their education partner, Dialogue Exchange.

The platform ensures every Child and Young Person’s (CYP) voice can be heard and acted upon in line with Article 12 of the UNCRC. At the heart of the approach is respect for children’s rights and commitment to the preparation of CYP for citizenship in the context of Wales and the Youth Parliament. CYP are supported to become active partners in the process of learning and school decision-making. VocalEyes can support CYP to influence their own education and what happens within and beyond the school.

“If you want to teach people a new way of thinking, don’t bother trying to teach them.
Instead, give them a tool, the use of which will lead to new ways of thinking.”

R. Buckminster Fuller

As educators and digital entrepreneurs we understand the requirement for schools to meet curriculum demands. We have therefore aligned the skills acquired using VocalEyes to the Digital Framework for Wales

CYP are key stakeholders in the school and in the city. They have important things to say about how both can be improved. VocalEyes can overcome the significant problem of how schools can listen to the voice of all students, not just those who have been elected to the School Council. When students know that their ideas are welcome and will be taken seriously they feel valued as they gain agency in the school and the city.

VocalEyes is a fully participatory approach designed to engage all CYP in conversation and dialogue to improve the school experience. Engagement with the platform has been trialled in four schools and is now being scaled up, first to cluster level and then to city level. If it is integrated into Hwb it has the potential to reach all CYP in Wales.

Guidelines for implementation have been derived from our pilot schools. VocalEyes is however a flexible and dynamic approach that will certainly evolve in use.

Student representatives teaching each other
at a recent Participatory Democracy training workshop.

Within the VocalEyes Participatory Democracy workshops, students learnt and put into practice the following activities:

  • Creating Student Council meeting events
  • Setting meeting agenda
  • Informing meeting agendas from Student Voice priorities
  • Logging meeting notes/minutes
  • Participatory budgeting – adding budgets, income and expense transactions
  • Linking priorities to expenditure as evidence of need
  • Setting topics for conversations
  • Engaging the student community
  • Crowd-sourcing projects and setting targets
  • Adding and assigning actions & logging outcomes
  • Creating news articles of good ideas into action
  • Know your councillors & community wards

As a result Student Council meetings have already improved. The Student Representatives are now a lot more engaged in the process and the student community are far more aware of the conversations and actions taking place.

At Cathays High School with Peter Anderson (VocalEyes), Student Representatives, Cllr Sarah Merry (Deputy Leader, Cabinet Member for Education) , Cllr Christopher Weaver (Cabinet Member for Finance, Modernisation & Consultation), Leslie Hitchens (Teacher)

If you’d like to find out more, do contact us.

 

Pupil Voice, Participatory Democracy and Digital Competence