Case Study 23, January 2001 Click here for the next page!
Kilninver Primary School
Pupil Participation: School Management and Support Systems

This is the first Case Study of three in the second stage of our 2000-01 series that features pupil participation. This stage focuses on pupils' participation and involvement in the management and support systems of their schools. It features Kilninver Primary School, a small, rural school - in size having much in common with many schools beyond the central belt of Scotland. Kilninver is very conscious that, whether their pupils eventually stay within a rural environment or head towards town and city life, becoming active participants in their own school now will prepare them for later choices and roles in the larger context of Oban High School and then adult life.

This Case Study was published by the Scottish Schools Ethos Network.

Kilninver Primary School
Oban, PA34 4UT
Contact: Don McAllister, Headteacher, 01852 316236


Kilninver Primary School serves a wide rural area to the south of Oban, Argyll. It currently has a role of 43, including eight children in the pre-five unit. The main school pupils are split into three composite classes. There are two full-time teachers including the Headteacher, one part-time class teacher, a full-time clerical auxiliary/classroom assistant and visiting specialists in art, music and Gaelic. The school is fortunate that our local policeman, chaplain and community nurse make significant educational in-puts and we also have a volunteer Gaelic choir tutor. The chair of the school board is actively involved in the school and our parents are very supportive. All pupils are transported to school, the majority coming from the village of Kilmelford seven miles away while others live in smaller settlements within the catchment area, The school itself is situated in a somewhat remote spot detached from any clearly recognisable community.

The foundations for the present system of pupils having their say in the management of the school was laid by the previous Headteacher. She set up a 'Pupil School Board' which met monthly, chaired by the Headteacher and minuted by the school secretary. The present Headteacher, realising that giving responsibilities to senior pupils actually leads to improvements in attitudes and performance, has gradually developed the system, giving the pupils a greater role in the decision-making process within the school.

Picture A: Kilninver Primary School Senior Pupil Forum, June 2000.
How is pupil participation promoted?

Membership of the Senior Pupil Forum is open to all primary six and seven pupils. Through membership of the forum, pupils are actively involved in making decisions and taking responsibility. Meetings are held approximately once a month. Meetings are now chaired by a pupil (the pupil forum leader's position is held on a rotation basis by the primary sevens), who sets the agenda in consultation with the Headteacher.

Another pupil acts as secretary and takes minutes. The Headteacher now attends meetings in an advisory capacity.

Examples of action taken as a result of projects initiated by the pupils themselves are:

  • erecting a ball fence,
  • painting coloured markings in the playground,
  • placing mirrors in the toilets,
  • building a bench and picnic table for the playground,
  • developing a garden in the school grounds,
  • designing and making paper cup dispensers for drinking water,
  • reintroducing crisps as part of the playtime snack., and
  • setting up story telling sessions for younger pupils.

I like being in the Senior Pupil Forum because I get a chance to say what I think of the school and what should be done.
Debbie P6

I mentioned, along with others, the state of the boys' cloakroom and now work is getting done. Suggestions come from everyone - we are all happy.
Alan P7

Seeking the views of all

One quiet but burning issue was the increasing influence of senior pupils in making decisions that affected all pupils attending the school. Two mechanisms were put in place to ensure that the views of all are represented and that younger pupils, too, participate in the school's democracy. Firstly, pupils are encouraged to write their views and post these into a suggestion folder. The views are then discussed at the meetings which follow. Secondly, prior to each senior pupil meeting, the pupil forum leader now holds a class meeting with each of the other class groups in the school before reporting back to the Forum. The Senior Pupil Forum must now take into consideration the views of younger pupils.

Through their class meetings, younger pupils have recently influenced the following:

  • the amount of football played and the
  • type of ball used in the playground,
  • the type of markings painted on the playground,
  • the kind of garden area to be created,
  • the choice of play equipment for the playground, and
  • the activities they wanted included in their Christmas party.

I like class meetings. We chose what games we wanted for our Christmas party.
Megan P2

If you don't want to say it in front of the others you can put it in the suggestion box.
Jamie P5


Picture B: The Senior Pupils Forum allows for healthy debate and "classic listening and talking" (HMI, December 1999).
Picture C: One pupil forum leader identified a need for tables and benches for the playground. Senior pupils then visited a Clydebank College to make the furniture themselves.
Taking a lead

Primary seven pupils take turns acting as the pupil forum leader. Those who wish to hold the position agree to take on some extra responsibilities. These are, to:

  • chair the Forum and class meetings;
  • meet with the Headteacher prior to each Forum and class meeting;
  • ensure that decisions made at Forum meetings are followed up,
  • report at assemblies to the whole school community on the work of the Forum,
  • take the lead in promoting recently formed pupil-centred policies and in maintaining a positive ethos within the school,
  • provide peer support for those in need of some help, and
  • welcome new pupils to the school and help them settle in.

Past pupil forum leaders have had a hugely positive influence on the ethos of the school and on attitudes to work. It has been one of the most important outcomes of allowing pupils to gain positive 'ownership' of their school.

I liked being pupil forum leader because I found I had more responsibilities and I felt more grown up. The best thing about being pupil forum leader was running the class meetings and everybody looking up to me. If we didn't have our say, I wouldn't enjoy coming to school so much - we need to know how to make decisions and take responsibility.
Rowena P7

Wider contexts

A weekly whole school circle time is held. Included in the session is an opportunity for any pupil who has a problem that they would like help with, for example, in the playground, to air their concern to the rest, but without naming anyone. The other pupils are then invited to suggest helpful strategies.

I think that we should do more whole school circle times - but P6/7s should run them.
Laura P6

The senior pupils were invited to contribute to the monthly school newsletter, with articles about their work on the Forum. Thus issues important to them are now being communicated to the wider school community.

Pupil involvement in the curriculum and its evaluation and in planning and reporting systems

Teaching and learning are the key tasks for our school as for all others. A recent move has been to allow pupils to evaluate selected school activities. They say what they liked and did not like about the activity and suggest improvements and innovations.

I quite enjoyed the first aid course. I learned a lot from the Red Cross. It was fun and I think my friends will agree it was quite a bit better than normal school work. It did get a little boring towards the end when we were going over the things we'd already done.
Written evaluation of a school activity by a P6 pupil

In an attempt to engage pupils more with their learning and its progress, procedures are being piloted whereby information in assessment profiles is shared with pupils. In some cases pupils are being asked what style of assessment they think allows them to demonstrate best what they can do. Reports are now discussed before being sent home, and primary seven pupils attend parents' evenings. As a result of consultation on assessment, several pupils have actually asked to discuss next steps in their learning with their teachers.

Influencing policy

A working party of senior pupils has just completed a consultative review on playground arrangements and produced its own written policy. The pupils' own booklet, Rights and Rules for Happy Schools was produced following a whole-school development which included senior pupils conducting Circletime sessions with younger pupils. The information in this book formed the basis for the school policy on Good Behaviour and Positive Relationships. Pupils were also consulted prior to production of policies on bully-proofing and on school dress code.

They see it from a child's point of view which we as adults don't always see.
Class teacher A

The pupil forum leader comes to ask us for our ideas.
Hattie P3
Picture D: The pupil forum leader has a very active role, and is seen holding a class meeting.
Picture E: Senior pupils receive training in circle time techniques in order to help younger children make decisions and influence policy.
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