Ysgol Pen-Y-Bryn encourage pupils to voice their opinions about the school in regular meetings. Groups of pupils discuss and share the specific priorities needed to improve areas within the school. As a result, pupils’ literacy, numeracy and ICT skills have developed.
Context and background to the effective or innovative practice
Children’s participation, or the ‘Pupil’s Voice’, has been an integral part of the life of Ysgol Pen-y-bryn for many years. The procedures and opportunities for pupils are developed and improved continuously.
In 2009, the school was part of the ‘Effectiveness Group’ pilot group, which was a national priority. As a result, different groups from the usual school council and eco committee were established, namely the ‘Plant Pesda’ groups, in order to give pupils a voice and have an effect on learning and teaching.
One key decision was funding a specific timetable for group meetings. As a senior management team and co-ordinators, it was very soon realised that pupils provided probing and accurate comments when monitoring and evaluating a number of areas in order to develop improvements.
Pupil participation is a core part of the school’s vision. All pupils recognise that they have a right to ask questions and share ideas, and that these are implemented for the benefit of everyone at the school. The groups report back on their work regularly to pupils and to the governors and parents. An annual meeting is organised where parents receive presentations from the groups to explain their work in developing priorities. A hall full of parents attends each year. This is where important messages about online safety, changes to the curriculum, improving attendance, the importance of eating healthily, recycling, national priorities, the Welsh language charter and any current school priorities are shared. Questionnaires are distributed during these evenings, through which useful information is gained from parents.
Description of nature of strategy or activity
The different groups are responsible for specific areas effectively.
Each group has its role and all pupils understand the responsibilities of each group. Each group is different with specific priorities to be implemented in order to improve purposeful areas. Everyone receives up-to-date information through presentations, sharing pamphlets, policies that have been paraphrased into child-friendly language, prominent displays that explain actions and results, or classroom visits to teach about a specific priority area.
When the ‘Plant Pesda’ effectiveness group was founded in 2009, members of the group were chosen by the senior management team and teachers. Representatives are now chosen by pupils from Year 6 after producing criteria.
This group is responsible for implementing changes in the classroom, namely provision, teaching and learning. After producing a questionnaire and analysing the responses, they are responsible for planning comprehension tasks in the format of the national tests and presenting them to each class. They are also part of a project to create ‘ap y Ddraig’ (Dragon app) with similar schools, and work with schools in the catchment area on linked tasks through tablet computers. As a result, they teach their fellow pupils successfully how to use tablet computers and the useful software that is available. They have created various mental mathematics tasks and created cross-curricular resources for teachers to use. They have created a pamphlet for parents to explain the new curriculum and produced up-to-date policies, such as the ‘e-safety Policy’. They produce these specifically in language that is easy to understand and present them in the classes. At time, members are given an opportunity to observe lessons and express their views when new members of staff need to be appointed.
Another way in which pupils share information about the school’s strategic development is through the school council. Members of the school council are elected after writing a speech, which is part of the language scheme. Here, they familiarise themselves with the priorities in the current school development plan and express an opinion by explaining why they should be elected to the post. Following the first meeting in September 2017, the school council decided to implement a priority to improve attendance. Members arranged a whole-school competition to design a poster, and composed poems and a rap to promote attendance. In terms of another priority, they led and implemented the Welsh language charter by planning new playground games and going to teach in each class. They analysed data and information from questionnaires about the Welsh language charter and chose actions, and went into classes to explain these actions and their expectations. Another example is the council receiving recommendations from fellow pupils about improvements to the outdoor environment. This group has led to the school receiving Step 5 of the Healthy Schools Scheme.
Members of the Eco Group are elected by their fellow pupils. This group is responsible for ensuring that the school continues to be as ‘green’ as possible by suggesting improvements to save energy. It gives each class responsibilities, monitors actions, and recycles and improves the use of the small area of green land the school has. It also organises and holds fair trade activities by presenting tasks to each class.
Members of the sports council are elected by pupils in Years 5 and 6 and the physical education co-ordinator, and pupils who are more able and talented in this area are nominated. The council promotes fitness and holds after-school activities for each class in turn, and supports the work of the healthy schools scheme. It is usual for some members to transfer to the sports council at Ysgol Uwchradd Dyffryn Ogwen.
What impact has this work had on provision and learners’ standards?
Through the work of the various groups, pupils’ literacy, numeracy and ICT skills are developed well or better. All pupils have an obvious sense of ownership of their learning. They are part of an inclusive ethos that has a very positive effect on their commitment to succeed and their enjoyment of being at school. Continuous improvements to provision have a positive effect on all pupils’ achievement. Internal data shows that nearly all pupils make very good progress. The school’s strategies have an obvious effect, including pupil participation, which gives extended real-life experiences to members of the various groups.
How have you shared your good practice?
The school welcomes other schools to discuss with the groups regularly, some from the other side of the country in Swansea, and others from across the authority and beyond.
Members of the group are invited to give a presentation on their work and its effect, for example about reading strategies, at a GwE conference.
The co-ordinators, deputy headteacher and headteacher are invited to give presentations in training on literacy, numeracy, assessment for learning, the healthy schools scheme and the effect of children’s participation in these areas.
Ensure regular information on the school’s website.