23 Mar 2006

CALLS were made today for pupils to have a say in their schools, at a major conference on democracy, hosted by the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY).

Young people led today’s Democra-School event at Lough Neagh Discovery Centre, Oxford Ireland. 

Pupils from England and Northern Ireland told how effective school councils were making school life better and benefiting teachers and pupils.

Acting Commissioner at NICCY, Barney McNeany, said today’s conference was the first step towards helping schools in Northern Ireland to embrace pupils democracy, enhance existing school councils, or set new ones in place.

“More than 120 pupils today are telling us how we can make a giant leap towards making democracy happen in schools,” he said.

“We have students from primary schools, special schools and post-primary schools here telling us how they can make democracy happen in schools.” (read full speech here ).

Deboragh Curley, a member of NICCY’s Youth Panel, presented today’s event. 

“Our aim today, is that everyone will leave with an idea of how to set a school council up, if one hasn’t already been established - how to keep it there,” she said. “That means, we help make our schools a better place for all of us.

“Everyone at today’s conference was also very encouraged that Education Minister, Angela Smith MP sent a personal greeting and a commitment that her department will develop a policy on school councils, and that the policy will use the work children and young people have undertaken today.”

Pupils at the Democra-School event worked to develop a 10-step guide to setting up effective school councils. This will be shared with the Department of Education and schools across Northern Ireland via the NICCY website in September.

Notes for Editors

  • You can read Barney McNeany's speech here
  • Photographic and interview opportunities will be available from 9.00am to 9.30am, from 1.00pm to 1.45pm and from 3.45 to 4.00pm.
  • NICCY will have photographs from the event available from 4.00pm