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Am I Heard?

I was reminded of the power of pupil voice recently when the Head Student sent me a list of the ideas we had discussed and the actions we had taken within our Student Council this year. Topics ranging from academic feedback to co-curricular activities, student driving and of course food all made it on to the agenda at some point in the last couple of terms. 

As Head, I find the discussions with our pupils incredibly insightful as they talk openly and share ideas for the future.  The Head’s Lunches that I host regularly with pupils, together with my meetings with prefects and the School Council, and open door policy, help me to understand their perspectives, needs and concerns. Of particular interest, is the chance we have to debate the merits of a certain proposal by talking through the advantages and disadvantages, considering the various stakeholders involved and, importantly for young people, being mindful of the practicalities behind certain ideas.   

The pupils’ engagement and sense of ownership from these open and mature conversations bring many benefits to the school community.  As well as developing critical reasoning, they enhance communication and leadership skills and are vital, not simply for the young people on the Council, but also for those across the school who they engage with through many online questionnaires.  By embedding pupil voice in our school culture, the impact on young people, their behaviour and the school as a whole can be transformational. 

One example comes from our pupil-led Eco Committee, comprising pupils from across the school.  They undertook a full Environmental Review to understand how green the school is and identified opportunities for quick fixes and longer-term change.  They developed an action plan with our Estates Team at the beginning of the academic year to agree on targets for a more sustainable School.  Within 10 months, the students have engaged the whole community in a commitment to promoting environmental action and making changes.  One outcome has been a 2.5% reduction in our energy usage.  The power of pupil voice in action! 

When the student body feel listened to, they feel respected and valued. A sense of pride prevails in the school and all pupils appreciate the importance of their voice within the wider world. Rather than education being something which is done to them, it becomes a joint venture, something we are working on together, for their benefit. 

At Radnor, we are committed to creating an environment that embraces equality, diversity and inclusion, characterised by our core value of respect.  I believe we are quite unique in Radnor in that we have active Student Councils across the Pre-Prep, Prep, Senior and Sixth Form, providing learning opportunities, engagement across the whole community and the development of leadership skills from a very young age.  The most important part, for me, is ensuring that all members of our community feel heard and valued.  We might not always agree on the outcomes, but by debating effectively, we’re encouraged to see other perspectives and expand our own mindsets. 

David Paton is Head of Radnor House Sevenoaks

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