“When pupils feel listened to, respected and included in school life, they’re more likely to do well at school.”

What is pupil participation?

speaker phone

Pupil participation is about having the chance to make your voice heard at school and get involved in decisions that affect your learning and well-being. Some examples of pupil participation are:

  • pupil councils
  • school votes
  • helping plan the support you need
  • having a say in how the school is run.

But why is it so important for pupils to have a voice at school?


3 reasons why pupil participation matters:

1. It’s your right!

First of all, as a young person, you have the right to to be listened to and taken seriously when decisions are made that affect you. Even more, this right is recognised in an international human rights treaty that almost every country in the world is signed up to.

It’s got a long name: the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child, or the UNCRC for short. The UNCRC is like a list of promises to young people to listen to you, keep you safe, look after you and treat you fairly.

In Scotland, the law says that at school you have the right to be: included, listened to and involved in decisions made about the support you need to get the most out of your education.

👉You can find out more about these rights here.👈

2. Participate + listened to + included = feel more involved.

Being listened to and actively included in school life can help you feel better about school – you feel more respected and included.

Here are some of the reasons why some pupils from Scottish schools thought pupil participation is important:

  1. “It makes you more confident because you speak out.”
  2. “[At our school] there’s a really high level of mutual respect – pupils listen to the teachers, but the teachers listen and value the pupils’ points of view and things to say, so it makes you more confident and you’re open with your ideas.”
  3. “The good relationship with the teacher makes you feel comfortable asking for extra help. Because sometimes it can seem a wee bit daunting especially when you’re in a classroom.”
Young person speaking to a grown up at school

3. No one else can think about what makes school work well in the way you can.

Finally, no one else has the ideas that you have or can think the way that you think. Your words and your thoughts are unique, just like you. Therefore, it’s only by listening to ALL pupils that schools can work out what is best for each and every one of you.

You are never too young to use your voice to speak up about stuff that you care about. And you can use your voice to make a difference to other people at school too.  As one pupil put it:

We’re more aware of the problems in the school than the teachers. They can’t see it from a pupil point of view. The same as we can’t see it from a teacher point of view.” 

The quotes in this post came from the Children and Young People’s Commissioner Scotland report How Young People’s Participation in School Supports Achievement and Attainment.