Within organisations and communities, stories are told often and in lots of different ways. Stories matter because they often provide new insights and give us a deeper understanding of other people's experience.
We'd like to use this space to share some of our project participant's stories:
I see a big change in the young people who were involved. I even see it in their body language. They are able to approach adults and take that first step in breaking down the teacher-pupil barriers.
They really seem more relaxed and able. I simply see happier and more confident young people.
As a member of SLT, I’ve had to deal with some wider staff resistance. It’s important that this isn’t projected onto the young people’s enthusiasm. Some staff have struggled to see the importance of this work, and I do worry about the momentum going forward.
I was part of the curriculum review group and was asked by the Deputy Head to get involved with the Space Unlimited project, as it seemed to fit with improving teaching and learning. Up until then I thought pupil voice things in the school had been a little tokenistic. So I suppose I did have a little bit of scepticism as I wondered if this would turn out the same.
Through the enquiry experience I really noticed a strong feeling of coming together in a genuine way. It really helped me realise it’s a bit of a teacher’s dream to hear everyone. We were really hearing from those who were usually disengaged and not just those who were usually picked to get involved with things.
Feeling valued whether you are a pupil or a teacher is so important in learning and teaching. I saw and felt that on this project. Maybe with hindsight we should have had some parents involved too.
I think for us as adults and teachers, it was hard holding back and letting the process happen, especially as we felt a pressure for something concrete to be finished by the end of the week. We had to trust that the young people would find their way through the difficulties.
I’ve been fascinated to follow the journey these young people have been through and the thoughtful ideas they have had. As adults, it has been hard for us to learn to step back, but it has been so important that we have. All I can say is: let pupils lead. I truly believe that the value of student led change is enormous.
We’re genuinely interested in lots of voices being heard and we knew we needed to hear more from our pupils. We recognised they could be engaged in a more meaningful way and we needed a partnership to help us do this.
The enquiry was really interesting and the young people offered a metaphor that really helped my thinking. They described in detail the current transitional process through school as steps. They told me that sometimes the step is too big a jump. Instead it should be a ramp. This really resonated with me. the focus on changing things and offering solutions meant the behaviour agenda went off the radar - this felt rather refreshing.
I was getting very busy around making the improvement plan as meaningful as possible. It was clear as the work progressed that young people’s opinions were missing from what we were gathering. I wanted young people to become more involved in the shaping of our school’s future as presently that influencing opportunity felt pretty small. Most of the influence was coming from an adult perspective.
The support from Space Unlimited came at the perfect time for me.
It seemed to start so simply. But it grew into something that was both very profound – and, in a practical sense, so helpful in shaping my thinking. It feels so powerful when young people feel listened to
I would say to others grab this kind of opportunity with both hands, be prepared for a pupil led approach and really listen – but only if you are genuinely prepared to take on board what you hear and act upon it.
I do genuinely want young people to help change opinions within and outwith the school.
I had a feeling that earlier work around things that aimed to stimulate change in the school seemed to try to draw in too many opinions (in my opinion) and was squeezed into smaller bits of rushed time. The time allowed for this programme seemed to say up front that this was a proper commitment and was to be quality work. From the offset I felt excited and optimistic, but at the same time worried a little about the students getting enough time to unpick and make sense of this big question. What would happen if we got stuck?
I felt so privileged to have seen the young people in action. The most important thing though is that young people realise how meaningful this has been for us.
Usually in our school one person has an idea and they work away on that on their own. It’s quite difficult to get ideas going forward. We have had lots of great starter ideas. But they seem to lose energy.
I really valued the opportunity to be involved with the pupils at a deeper level. It helped to connect me back to the reason I became a teacher. I realise that pupils can know more and be more creative than I can. All I need to do is loosen the reigns.
This experience helped me realise how much I control stuff and have been conditioned to prefer silent activities as an indicator of good learning practice.
I’d like to see a change in our collective understanding of the way we work with pupils - see them as part of a team rather than an audience.