This study was carried out by the Northern Ireland Youth Forum on behalf of the Northern Ireland Commissioner for Children and Young People (NICCY). The study involved 12 School Councils from both primary and post-primary schools.

The study was youth-led by a steering group of 6 young people from the Northern Ireland Youth Forum Executive Committee and NICCY’s Youth Panel. This group has led on the design, delivery and recommendations for this report.

The overall objectives of the study were defined as follows;

  • A Youth Led study/exploration into pupil participation within education throughout N. Ireland
  • To assess the impact of the DE circular (2013) on Pupil Participation
  • To evaluate / celebrate the wider improvements/changes that take place within the school as a result of Pupil participation
  • To gain the views of children and young people on their attitude/experience towards pupil participation and the positive impacts this can have within the school setting.
  • To explore the use and knowledge of supporting materials for pupil participation such as NICCY’s Democra School Resource

Meaningful and inclusive engagement and participation of children and young people, of all ages and abilities, in their education will not only improve outcomes for children but for the whole school community.  School councils are one such mechanism but I look forward to hearing how our education system is incorporating the views and experiences of every pupil in every process.  Ultimately, NICCY wants to see a specific pupil participation policy to support this engagement. Children and young people are, after all, the most important “stakeholder” in our education system.

Key Recommendations:

For the Department of Education NI:

  • Department of Education to review and strengthen the circular, engaging with pupils at all stages of the review.
  • Department of Education to liaise with the Education and Training Inspectorate (ETI) with a view to including pupil participation as part of the formal inspection process (including self-evaluation) within schools.
  • To promote the Circular and pupil participation support materials to all schools.

For NICCY:

  • To update and promote the Democra School Guidance.
  • To monitor the Department of Education’s work on pupil participation and encourage the implementation of the recommendations from this study.

For Schools:

  • To provide more opportunities for training in pupil participation for governors and all teachers.
  • Ensure that pupils have a say in developing policies, teaching practice, curriculum and school rules
  • All schools to establish a school council and ensure that other mechanisms exist so that all pupils have the opportunity to have a say on issues that affect them.

For the Department of Employment and Learning:

  • Pupil participation and its links to the UNCRC should form a specific part of teacher training.

See here for the full report.