Research shows participatory schools boost student performance


“Engagement in real decision making is a good underpinning for raising achievement and attainment,” says children and young people commissioner

STUDENTS from disadvantaged backgrounds who are involved in making decisions in their school lives are more likely to achieve better results, research from Stirling University has found.

The report, commissioned by Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, found that where secondary school students in deprived areas did better than expected, student engagement tended to be prioritised.

Dr Greg Mannion, a senior lecturer from Stirling University’s school of education, was quoted in the Herald as saying: “This research adds new and rich accounts from young people themselves to the mounting evidence for how participation through schooling is a driver for all kinds of positive outcomes.

“For young people in these schools, doing well was clearly supported by taking part in a wide variety of activities across all of school life through which they could share in decision-making with adults with whom they had respectful and supportive relationships.

“It was noticeable that in these schools in challenging circumstances, there were many opportunities for participation in all arenas of school life and whilst young people felt schools could do more, these schools did appear to be well on the way to addressing the right of pupils to have a say.”

The research found that there was lots of scope for improvement, with school student participation still limited in many areas.

“In the schools we visited there were limits to pupil participation. We can say with confidence there was scope for doing more to both address rights and improve achievement and attainment,” the report stated.

Tam Baillie, Scotland’s Commissioner for Children and Young People, stated: “It demonstrates that young people value strong relationships, mutual respect and understanding, between pupils and teachers as key to helping them do well at school regardless of their backgrounds or how much money their families have.

“My message is that a rights-based education which includes opportunities for engagement in real decision making is a good underpinning for raising achievement and attainment.

The report follows a consultation by the Commissioner in 2010 in which the need to look more closely at what could make schools fairer places was identified as an area that required more research.

Picture courtesy of Grahame Rainey