What is student voice?

Dialogue, discussion, consultation and participation.

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What is student voice?

Student voice begins and ends with the thoughts, feelings, visions and actions of the students themselves.

Student voice is an overarching concept that involves dialogue, discussion and consultation with the students and by students about their experiences in their school and their classrooms.

At its core, the important principle is that students have a right to have a voice and that they should be listened to. It’s about genuine consultation and the authentic involvement of all students in decision-making.

As all schools are unique, decisions about the suitable amount of engagement with students will be based on the context and the nature of the issue. Schools should choose various levels of engagement depending on the complexity of the task, the knowledge and the maturity of students, and other factors.

What is student participation?

Student participation is about developing a culture in schools where all children and young people have a voice and have the opportunity to play an active role in decisions that affect their learning and wellbeing. Meaningful student participation acknowledges the diversity of students by allowing them to represent their own ideas, opinions, knowledge and experiences.

Participation is a process rather than an event, with degrees of involvement – from being consulted on a pre-determined issue, to students choosing their agenda, making their own decisions and taking them forward.

Student participation can happen in different ways at different levels:

  • as part of teaching and learning
  • using consultation tool such as questionnaires, survey,s circle time, focus groups and suggestion boxes
  • taking part in and being represented in groups such as the school council and peer mentors
  • involving students in planning, reviewing and implementing school policies and procedures, including the annual plan
  • having structures in place so that all students can be involved in decision-making.

Each can be an important component of an overall approach to student voice.

Student voice, agency and leadership

Student voice gives students:

  • the opportunity to communicate ideas and opinions
  • the power to influence change
  • opportunities to collaborate and make decisions with adults.

Student agency gives students:

  • the capacity to act to produce meaningful change
  • the power to direct and take responsiblity for their actions
  • the opportunity to create independent and self-regulating students.

Student agency is fundamentally linked to student voice.

Student leadership gives students:

  • an increased sense of responsibility
  • the opportunity to develop leadership qualities
  • the opportunity to enhance trust and build relationships.

Student leadership includes listening to students and advocating on their behalf. Leadership is intrinsic within all students and not restriced to a small group of individuals.