Lucy, our Children’s Rights and Communications Officer, shares some insights from her work with pupils with additional support needs.
Working for Enquire, we hear directly from pupils about their experiences of support. We consistently hear about the importance of meaningful relationships with staff and the positive impact a sense of belonging at school can have on pupils’ education.
With that in mind, a popular activity we like to use with pupils is to give them the scenario of being Headteacher for the day. It may already be an activity you are familiar with. However, it’s always an entertaining way of gathering the views of children and young people. It also offers insight into the common areas of change those pupils would implement in their school – regardless of whether they have additional support needs or not.
After asking ‘what would you do if you were Headteacher for the day?’ to hundreds of pupils, we wanted to share the overarching themes of this simple icebreaker. Our goal behind the activity is to help us get to know the group a little at the start of a session and for them to familiarise themselves with us and the other participants. Pupils can choose anything they would like to change (and there have been some truly silly but excellent responses!). However, this activity has now become something more than what it was originally intended for. It has shown us that across all areas of school life, children and young people have strong ideas about change. They know what they think would help them and their fellow pupils feel more supported and included in their school community.
Responses from pupils can be broadly categorised into the following themes:
- School environment
- School staff
- Children’s rights
- Equality and equity
- Inclusion and participation
- Light-hearted responses (including many pupils wanting to bring pets to school!)
It comes as no surprise that the changes pupils want to make align with what children and young people told the Review of additional support for learning. They want to feel included in their schools and communities; to be involved in decisions that directly affect them and to learn in a supportive and safe environment. It is a message that we heard prior to the Review and one that continues following its publication in 2020.
But the next question is how can we – as adults who work with children and young people – build on and help pupils move towards the changes they might like to see? There are no easy answers or quick fix solutions. However, creating space for pupils to share their experiences and express themselves – and for us to really listen – must be the starting point. Playing ‘If I were Headteacher for a day’ with the children and young people you work with could be a way of starting the conversation. We would love to hear from you if you do. And anyone is more than welcome to use our videos as a way to start a wider conversation about participation.