Case Study 25, March 2001 Click for the next page!
Inverness Royal Academy
Pupil Participation: School Management and Support Systems

This is the final Case Study of three in the second stage of our 2000-01 series that features pupil participation and involvement in the management and support systems of their schools while the third stage Case Studies, next term, will look at pupils' participation in their local community. Scotland's cities and towns have a long history of secondary education establishments, some of the 'Academies' or High Schools being hundreds of years old. Now firmly part of the comprehensive system, they are proud of their histories and keen to ensure that the education they currently provide to a wider range of pupils will add to their distinguished records. Inverness Royal Academy which contributed this Case Study is just such a school, having been founded in 1792. This is the first Case Study where the writing team comprised pupils working alongside the school's Rector (Head Teacher). We would therefore like to thank S6 pupils Eve Brindley and Stephanie Anderson.

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

Inverness Royal Academy
Culduthel Road
Inverness, IV2 6RE
Contact: John Considine, Rector, 01463 222884

Introduction

Inverness Royal Academy is a six year comprehensive school situated on the southern edge of Inverness with a roll of 819 in September 2000. Over 90% of the pupils live in Inverness itself with the remaining 10% coming from an extensive rural area to the south of the city. The catchment area is mixed, containing the largest area of Council housing in the Highlands, as well as extensive areas of relatively new private housing. A new facility was opened in August 1999 for children with severe physical and communication difficulties, all of whom are included as appropriate in mainstream classes. The school has around 65 staff with a low staff turn over. The staff is very experienced and very committed to the school.

Pupil participation has evolved since 1993. Initially pupils' views were sought through surveys, based largely on the SOEID materials for assessing ethos.

Surveys gave an indication of climate but gave little depth. The following session the Rector began meeting groups of pupils to discuss a range of school issues, and these views were fed into the development planning process. Although informal, these were useful and led to some specific outcomes. For example, some comments about the PSE programme for S3/4 were incorporated into a revised programme. However, most of the changes suggested were improvements in the physical environment and pupil facilities. Since 1995 we have carried out a range of improvements. Seating in concourse areas, outdoor benches and picnic tables have been bought by the PTA. We have, over the years, built a cycle compound, introduced lockers for pupils and in October opened two outdoor basketball courts that are now heavily used. These initiatives all came from discussions between the Senior Management Team and groups of pupils (Picture A).
 

Picture A: Pupil participation in discussion of school management and planning with the Rector.
Further Developments

In 1995 the school began to explore ways of involving senior pupils more

effectively in school management and support systems. The main areas of development were:

  • School Board
  • Year Councils / Pupil Council
  • Paired Reading
  • Buddy Scheme
  • School Board

In 1998 the Board decided to co-opt two S6 representatives onto the Board. The Sixth Year elect the two reps. S6 pupils bring a different perspective to the Board as they have first-hand experience of the school and can better judge the effects of the Board's actions on the pupils. They also act as a conduit between all the other pupils and the Board members (Picture B).

The Board have always had a clear set of Standing Orders which prohibits any discussion about individual pupils or staff; this allayed any fears staff may have had over pupil involvement at Board level. The move was successful. This is the third full school session with S6 members. Having a pupil perspective on the School Development Plan, Health and Safety issues, school security or the repeal of Section 2(a) has been valued by the Board. The pupils involved have been very positive about the experience and see it as a good opportunity to contribute as well as a personal development experience. Here are some of their opinions:

I feel that involvement on the Board not only improved my confidence in my communication skills, but was also of great benefit to the Board itself.

Any ideas the other board members may have for developments/improvements within the school can be primarily passed through us to get an instant reaction and opinion on future success, and likewise any comments/suggestions that any pupil may have can be passed directly to the Board via their pupil rep. and aired quickly in discussion.

It is a fruitful arrangement for all involved.

This session has seen a further development. When the Board discussed an 'Ethos' paper produced by the Rector, one of the themes 'sense of identity' generated a great deal of discussion. A canteen survey, which was suggested by an S6 rep., was issued to twelve members of each year. Through the results of this survey it became apparent that pupils were unhappy about some aspects of the school's canteen service. A subgroup of the Board, which included the two S6 reps, was set up. It surveyed pupil opinion and met members of Highland Contract Services management who run the Canteen Service. A number of measures were introduced to improve things and a follow-up meeting between the subgroup and HCS management is to happen soon. There is a very definite sense of pupil participation making a difference.

Year Councils/Pupils Councils

This year for the first time we have had a formal forum for pupil views to be discussed. Each of our six house groups in each year elect representatives who meet with the Year Head and a volunteer teacher. Topics discussed have included the school discipline system as part of a whole-school review. As a result of pupil views the system has been modified and is working more effectively. For example, pupils throughout all years, but especially in S1/2 where behaviour difficulties were most evident, felt that the system whereby persistently disruptive pupils may be transferred to other classes was too slow. In response to their views the system was changed to transferring after one instead of two formal warnings. Those who are transferred more than once must also now report to their Head of Year to explain themselves when they are transferred.

Each Year Council nominates two pupils to serve on the Pupil Council that meets with the Rector and Depute. It has been allocated a 2000 budget. The two main topics discussed to date have been the improvement of pupil facilities - particularly the toilets - and the school's drug and alcohol education programmes. As a result of these discussions, a supervisor has been appointed for the girls' toilets and we are also awaiting quotes from local companies to refurbish the girls' toilets. Pupil comments on the PSE programme will be incorporated into next session's programme. For example, pupils felt that the most significant changes were needed in the three week Healthy Relationships course. Pupils felt the 1989 course was outdated and less relevant to today's issues. The main changes implemented were:

  • The purchase of up-to-date videos
  • Other learning resources were purchased from external suppliers
  • Parenting featured more in the course
  • Pupils were given 'simulation babies' to take home.

The Councils are formal and still in their infancy. One of the concerns of senior staff was that members would simply discuss issues but that no action would follow and they would be seen as ineffective. Giving a budget to the Pupil Council should help reinforce the group's credibility. These Pupil Councils provide a wealth of information and ideas. However, it is also useful to augment these procedures by talking to pupils in small groups to get feedback on old schemes and ideas for new ones.

 

Picture B: School Board Pupil Representative discussing issues with junior pupils.
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