Background to Democra-School

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This guidance have been developed by NICCY in partnership with schools and pupils and using legislation and guidelines from local, national and international programmes.

There are many ways to ensure pupil participation within the school environment; school councils are just one example. NICCY would like all schools to have a mechanism for pupil participation in place, which allows pupils to have a real say in issues that affect them and to know that their opinions matter.

Helping children and young people have a say is part of NICCY’s role to safeguard and promote the rights and best interests of children and young people.

It is an important part of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (UNCRC). Article 12 of the Convention says that young people should have a voice on issues that affect their lives. Under various parts of the law that set up the office of the Commissioner, NICCY must make sure that it involves and listens to views of children and young people.

In 2006, NICCY hosted a conference called Democra- School. More than 220 participants attended, including 140 pupils, principals / senior teachers and key stakeholders. The day was used to share experiences, collect existing good practice and ideas for future development from pupils, teachers and key stakeholders.

In June 2015, the Department of Education (DE) developed a departmental circular on pupil participation in schools. This circular provided guidance for Principals and Boards of Governors on how to encourage pupil participation in decision making in schools, and to identify ways to ensure the pupils’ voice is heard.

The circular included information and guidelines on best practice, to help schools identify the method and degree of participation that will best suit the needs of their pupils.

DE’s policy for school improvement, ‘Every School a Good School’, wishes to see a greater focus on engagement within schools, particularly with pupils.

NICCY will, on an ongoing basis, engage with the Department of Education to seek further details on how it proposes to monitor future levels of pupil participation.

For further details on the Department of Education’s information on pupil participation go here.

You can contact a member of the Participation team for more information on this.