3. Pupil Participation
We will include provisions in the Education Bill to ensure that the principles of pupil participation are pursued in every school.
Ensuring that the views of children and young people are considered gives them an opportunity to participate in decisions and activities which influence policies or services that can impact on their lives. It contributes to their sense of belonging, helps communities to become stronger, and increases the likelihood that services will make a positive impact.
A recent Scottish study  has shown that schools which were achieving better than expected results given their catchments areas were all making comprehensive efforts to address learner participation across all areas of school life. Across many studies, we can say the main evidenced effects of enhancing learner participation are:
- improved pupil-teacher relations;
- improved peer relations across the school age ranges;
- improved teaching and learning;
- improved guidance and support;
- a better school ethos and greater sense of a shared community;
- a reciprocal sense of feeling valued, trusted and respected;
- life skills such as teamwork, problem-solving, and citizenship;
- improved engagement, empowerment, and commitment to education;
- improved achievement and attainment; and
- addressing the ‘attainment gap’ between learners from different backgrounds.
In schools and early years settings, learner participation is core to a good education. Alongside this, it is a right of children and young people to have a say in matters that affect them as part of that experience. In all schools and early learning and childcare settings young people should have opportunities to:
- provide inputs that shape educational provision – both in terms of the formal curriculum and wider curriculum – and have a say in planning where and how learning takes place;
- learn through participating in many kinds of educational processes as part of everyday schooling and early learning; and
- create impactful outcomes for themselves and others as a result of intergenerational dialogue.
Where effective learner participation is planned and structured and based on core principles it can lead to good education becoming relevant, valuable, and supportive of achievement and attainment.
Curriculum for Excellence provides a very positive framework for good practice in this area, however it is important that we provide a consistent framework across Scotland. In defining certain legal duties we will provide a consistent understanding of the importance of pupil participation, to define the areas of education that are relevant, and to clarify the key steps that need to be taken to ensure participation.
What we propose to do
We must help young people understand and exercise their rights regardless of age, gender, ethnicity and background, and help them contribute in all kinds of decision-making both locally and through linking to the wider community. Teachers and school leaders are distinctively positioned to enable this.
There are many good examples of pupil participation such as Pupil Councils or Pupil Parliaments but it is for headteachers as leaders of learning in each school to choose the right model of participation for their learners. We do not, therefore, intend to prescribe particular models or particular methods to ensure effective participation. Instead, we intend to provide a general duty on headteachers to promote and support pupil participation in specific aspects of education and school life:
- the pupil’s own learning as part of the formal and extended curriculum;
- decision-making relating to the life and work of the school (such as school policies, school improvement activity); and
- the pupil’s participation in the wider community.
This general duty will be accompanied by key principles to support effective participation:
- collaboration and dialogue;
- authenticity; and
In addition to the proposed duties for headteachers we are keen to explore whether it would be appropriate to develop additional strategic duties on local authorities and Scottish Ministers, for instance to ensure that young people are supported to influence the development of local and national education policy. This would also include the ways in which national education agencies are required to engage with young people.
Should the Bill include a requirement that all schools in Scotland pursue the principles of pupil participation set out in Chapter 3? Should this be included in the Headteachers’ Charter?
What are your thoughts on the proposal to create a general duty to support pupil participation, rather than specific duties to create Pupil Councils, committees etc…?
Email: David Hannigan
Phone: 0300 244 4000 – Central Enquiry Unit
The Scottish Government
St Andrew's House