School Council is one of the most effective ways that students can get their views known at St Helen's. Every half-term at least 15 of us – the representatives from each year group – sit down together for an hour with Mrs Bedford and a packed lunch to address the various ideas and issues that students have brought forward.
School Council is organised and run by Lower Sixth so its tone and focus always changes a little with each new year group. This year, one of our aims has been to make School Council more democratic and responsive. To do this, we now circulate the minutes from each meeting to all students in school so everyone sees the topics raised and decisions taken. We’ve also tried to give the School Council representatives from each year more responsibility: they now distribute and collect in feedback forms from their years, enter the data onto a shared document, present the issues during the School Council meetings and then feedback updates to their year groups in section assemblies. All of this not only gives the reps a higher profile in school, but makes sure that all students know the changes that School Council has helped to bring about.
It’s not always possible to tackle some of School Council’s big topics in a single lunchtime meeting, so one of the recent innovations has been to introduce sub-committees to look at more involved issues longer-term. At the moment we have three sub-committees: Environment, Sport and PD, each led by members of School Council but open to any students interested in those issues. The Sport Committee is currently working with the PE Department to get feedback on changes to the way sport is taught in Years 7 and 8. PD is a new committee initiated by Channan (L6G) which focuses on giving students a better understanding of mental health issues. The Environmental Committee has a broader remit to make the school more environmentally friendly and encourage environmental awareness amongst students. Last term the Environmental Committee’s focus was food waste and, with Olivier’s backing, involved the whole school firstly working out how to reduce lunch-time waste, and then implementing changes, together with the kitchen staff, to address it.
It must be said that, traditionally, being a School Council rep hasn’t always been seen as the coolest role in school! Indeed, sometimes it’s been difficult to get enough volunteer members from each year group. Fortunately that’s now changed. The sub-committees have been particularly helpful in getting a wider group of students involved, with several new reps joining as a result. We’ve also made an effort to grow School Council from the bottom up, by leading the Year 7 Citizenship project and though the Year 8 Going Beyond week. It has all had a really positive effect – with more requests to join school council than there are places!