Valuing learner voice

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Valuing learner voice

Area of sector-leading practice which has been identified during inspection and relates to a particular quality indicator:

Number of pupils: 1374
Age range: 11 - 18 years
Date of Estyn inspection: December 2013

Context and background to sector-leading practice

Castell Alun High School is a co-educational 11 to 18 English-medium community comprehensive school situated in the village of Hope, Flintshire. There are currently 1,374 pupils on roll, of whom 307 are in the sixth form.

The school serves a wide area made up of mainly rural communities from Penyffordd, Penymynydd, Kinnerton, Ffrith, Llanfynydd, Treuddyn, Leeswood, Hope and Caergwrle. Around 5% of pupils are entitled to free school meals, which is lower than the national average of 17.7%, and 7.3% of pupils live in the 20% most deprived areas of Wales.

The pupils entering the school represent the full range of ability. Around 4.3% have a special educational need. This figure is lower than the national average of 19.2%. Under 1% of pupils have statements of special educational needs. This figure is lower than the national average of 2.5% for Wales as a whole.

A very few pupils come from ethnic-minority backgrounds and currently no pupils receive support to learn English as an additional language. A very few pupils speak Welsh as their first language.

The school is committed to further development through effective self-evaluation by providing quality learning experiences and promoting high expectations whilst recognising and celebrating success for all.

As part of a more reflective and shared self-evaluation process with both staff and pupils, the school culture has undergone a subtle shift, where teachers willingly accept and value learner voice and where pupil opinion and comment is used to influence outcomes and learning experiences. Pupils’ views and opinions are integrated into the processes of self-evaluation across the school at all levels.

Taking account of pupils’ learning perspectives in order to improve learning is an integral part of the school’s self-evaluation process. Pupils feel involved and valued in the school and the benefits that have arisen from this are manifold.

Nature of strategy or activity identified as sector-leading practice:

Year group councils provide an effective vehicle for pupils to have a voice. ‘Pupil Development Managers’ ensure that at least three meetings take place per term with year group representatives elected by their peers. They are expected to formally feedback to their tutor groups and to follow up an action points.

  • The school council comprises of pupils who have been selected from the Year Group Council and is chaired by two selected sixth form pupils. In negotiation with the assistant headteacher responsible for pastoral arrangements, meetings take place four times per term. The headteacher attends all meetings and action points are distributed to all staff and are reported back to pupils by year representatives as part of assemblies in year and group tutor sessions.
  • To ensure that all groups of learners, irrespective of ability or background, have a voice, Pupil Development Managers, as part of their self-evaluation process, meet regularly with identified groups of learners, for example pupils identified through an attitudinal survey. Feedback from these meetings is given to the senior leadership representative attached to each year group and is also discussed as part of the Learning Area Managers’ agenda with their senior leadership link.
  • The biennial cycle of Learning Area Reviews and the termly Key Stage Curriculum Reviews use pupil voice as an integral unit of the review process. Pupils adopt the role of peer questioners as well as peer representatives and have been given training on effective questioning techniques. They are asked to comment on teaching and learning and their responses are included in the final documentation that is published to all members of staff. Pupils are also given feedback on their effectiveness in the process and are used to provide pupil voice training.
  • The introduction of Pupil Voice Subject Action Groups allows pupils from across all the key stages to work closely with Learning Areas to discuss teaching and learning issues such as the content schemes of work and assessment procedures.