Over the past year, Arbory School has made a big effort to focus on the way it listens to the views and ideas of its pupils.
The school council, guided by the Deputy Headteacher, Triana Collister, has been at the forefront getting children to speak up about what they think when it comes to improving their experience of school.
School councils often raise money by holding themed days and cake sales, but 167-pupil Arbory wanted to involve its children more fully in improving the day to day routines.
Jonathan Ayres, Headteacher, explains:
‘We want the children to enjoy their education and to feel that their school responds to their needs. We have worked hard to give children the opportunity to let adults know their feelings and opinions about things that affect them and have a say about decisions that are made.
‘Encouraging them to play an active role in making their school a better ultimately helps them to develop active life skills through participating in the process.’
The school invited Nigel Bennett, the headteacher of St John’s School, who is newly appointed as a local evaluator for Investing in Children, to speak to staff. Investing in Children recognises and rewards organisations that have not only sought young people’s opinions but have acted on them.
Mr Bennett’s advice to the school was that Investing in Children was an excellent vehicle for focusing on ‘pupil voice’ but it only worked if all the staff were dedicated to it. This wasn't a problem at Arbory and once the staff were on board, it was plain sailing.
The school council drew up its ideas, Mr Bennett held a meeting with its members and, on the strength of it, made a recommendation that Arbory should receive the award. The award was achieved because decisions that the children had made were implemented by the school.
Some of the children were keen to say exactly what some of these were.
‘We've introduced mixed playtimes. This is done on a rota so that KS1 and KS2 can play together on Wednesday mornings and Friday afternoons. We don't have football then so the little children don't get hurt.’
'We got complaints because everyone wanted to eat together at the same time with their friends. Dinners and packed lunches were at different times but we sorted that out and now they can all sit on any table with their friends.’
Mr Ayres was over the moon to be given the news that the school had become only the fourth in the Island to achieve IIC status and only the second since evaluators were appointed to lead the scheme locally.
‘We were pleased to hear that Dhoon had achieved the IIC but we are the first school to gain the award in the south of the Island and that means a lot to us,’ he said.
Arbory's celebration of its achievement included a presentation of the award by DEC political members Tony Wild MLC and Juan Turner MLC in assembly today.