Jessica Gold, School Councils UK

Describe your role 
As Chief Executive of School Councils UK  I have a responsibility to ensure that we keep focussed on our mission of helping every school in this country have an effective school council. I have an overseeing role to ensure that the resources and training we provide for schools meets their needs and help them establish a strong student voice. In addition I am responsible for inspiring enough partners to support our work so that we are able to continue growing and supporting schools in the UK and beyond.

What makes a good participation worker?
A good participation worker is someone who appreciates that adults don’t always know whats best for young people, but rather understands that with support young people are able to identify ways forward for themselves. They want to work with young people to help them develop skills that enable them to be involved in improving their environment.

What are the barriers to involving children and young people?
In schools the most common barrier to involving children and young people is there not being a member of staff that has adequate time to work informally with young people. In addition there is not yet enough recognition of the benefits to young people and their schools of the positive impact of increasing participation and involvement.

What are the benefits?
There is growing evidence that schools that have strong and inclusive student councils are happier and more effective communities. Better relationships exist between students as well as between students and teachers. Students become more motivated and identify more strongly with their schools and teaching and learning improves.

What tips do you have for effective participation of children and young people?
Make sure that young people have opportunities to receive leadership training. Make sure that participation isn’t an add on or an after thought but rather that structures are established that require regular input from young people. This will make young people feel confident that their efforts will make a difference and are valued.

What is effective participation?
Effective participation is when young people are empowered to take initiative and are enabled to work constructively with adults who are responsible for their well-being. In schools, effective participation will be established when the management believe that the school will only be the best it can be if teachers and students are working together.

Participation Works is a partnership of…
British Youth CouncilChildren's Rights Alliance for EnglandKIDSNational Council for Voluntary Youth ServicesNational Youth AgencyNCB