25 SES 02, Children's Participation in School Governance and School Improvement
One of the key mechanisms for implementing Article 12 of the UNCRC (Unicef 1989, which states the children and young people have the right to be consulted on matters that affect them, is the development of representational forums within school contexts. Within Scotland’s national curriculum framework, Curriculum for Excellence, the nature of these forums has diversified and developed alongside a range of other curricular mechanisms that aim to develop critical thinking, problem solving and group work skills (Scottish Executive 2000, 2006, Scottish Government 2011). However, there is growing evidence that these forums, rather than encouraging participatory engagement, act, within some contexts and conditions, as an inoculation for young people against seeking to have a voice in matters that affect them (Kerr 2006, Maitles and Deuchar 2006, Author 2009, Mannion 2012, Author 2017). This suggests that representation requires further analysis within the dynamics prevalent in schools.
As Rorty (1998) has argued, representational rights are premised upon a more basic right of respect which implies a reciprocal contract. However, in school settings this reciprocity is partial, subject to change and redefinition outside young peoples’ control. Scotland is an interesting research focus as there have been recent changes in national and local elections, from the 2014 referendum on independence onwards, with the voting age dropping to 16 years of age.
At a time of uncertainty in Europe and other countries in relation to our democratic society, for example with the creation and circulation of fake news via social networks, it is important to consider how young people begin their participation in decision-making.
This presentation reports findings from secondary analysis of three research projects on participation in secondary schools carried out across Scotland in the last ten years in which representation featured as a key theme. Though there is slight variation in methods, a case study approach comparing interview and focus group data was a common feature thus allowing comparative cross-case analysis. As Smith (2010) recommends, the analysis steers clear of making claims for quantitative data, and instead takes a fine-grained discourse analysis approach (Rampton 2008) to both textual and visual data from research databases to identify the ways in which the concepts representation, respect and reciprocity arise within their accounting of their school experiences. As Forrester (2002) reminds us, children are required to learn how to be ‘children’ as part and parcel of any other learning that might be said to be taking place. Discourses about the kind of child one is learning how to be will in part depend on the age and status of the child. This study adopts a social practice theory approach (Holloway and Lave 2009) to analyse the data in order to interrogate the kinds of young people and the kinds of representation that emerges from their socio-cultural positioning.
Analysis reveals that students experience contradictory application of the key terms. Whilst experiencing a lack of right to representation they nevertheless associate representation with a sense of duty placed upon them to represent the school in a good light. This lack of reciprocity has important consequences for the social identities aspirations students imagine for themselves within their prescribed choices available to them within schools. In addressing the conference theme of inclusion and exclusion, the presentation concludes by contrasting representative models of decision-making with participatory ones and scopes out the argument for more inclusive models of decision making in schools that may better support the fulfillment of this fundamental right of participation in decision-making.
Author (2009, 2017) Forrester, M. (2002) Appropriating Cultural Conceptions of Childhood: Participation in Conversations Childhood 9: 255-278. Holland, D. and Lave, J. (2009) Social Practice Theory and the Historical Production of Persons, An International Journal of Human Activity Theory, No. 2: 1-15. Kerr, D. (2006). Active Citizenship and Young People: the Citizenship Education Longitudinal Study Key messages for School Leaders and Teachers. NFER. Mannion, G (2012) Children and Young People’s Participation in Scotland:Frameworks, standards and principles for practice, Edinburgh: Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People. Rampton, Ben (2008). Linguistic Ethnography, interactional sociolinguistics and the study of identities. London: King’s College. Rorty, R. (1998) ‘Human Rights, Rationality and Sentimentality’, Truth and Progress: Philosophical Papers III. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. Scottish Executive. (2000). Standards in Scottish Schools Act http://www.opsi.gov.uk/legislation/scotland/acts2000/asp_20000006_en_1#pb2-l1g6. Scottish Government (2011). A Curriculum for Excellence. Edinburgh, Scottish Government. Scottish Executive (2006). Positive about Pupil Participation, Edinburgh, Scottish Executive Available from; http://www.scotland.gov.uk/Resource/Doc/182858/0051876.pd Smith, E. (2010) Pitfalls and promises: the use of secondary data analysis in educational research, British Education Research Journal 56 (3): 523-39. Unicef. (1989). The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child. http://www.unicef.org.uk/pages.asp?page=15&nodeid=sixty§ion.
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