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21/10/2021

Student Voice Conference 2021

On Wednesday 20th October, we held our first Student Voice Conference to discuss and get further feedback on the following important issues linked to our school values:

  • Resilience (Canteen focus)
  • Pride (Equality and Diversity focus) 
  • Kindness (PSCHE and healthy relationships focus)
  • Respect (environment focus)

During the summer term of last academic year, Student Voice groups were formed from a diverse mix of students from Years 7-10, and were encouraged to share their input, ideas and concerns on these areas. The Head Team analysed and summarised this feedback, producing reports which were discussed at Student Council meetings and further Student Voice group meetings. The Head Team sought further input from key staff members, government guidelines and other educational bodies. Having collected a lot of information and feedback, the Head Team was ready to share it with students, staff and our Governors.

The conference was led and introduced by Amy and Ben, our Head Students, and was attended by Student Voice groups from Year 9 to represent the Waingels study body. Mr Bartlett, Mrs Chislett and myself represented our staff, and Michael Marsden and Jim Mathieson represented our Governing Body. Although this could have been quite a daunting task, Amy and Ben did an excellent job of explaining the importance of Student Voice, the significance of such a conference in the context of the upcoming UN Climate Change Conference (COP26), and introducing each of the research topics that would be discussed during the conference.

Each member of the Head Team confidently shared their intent, investigation and recommendations. Amy and Ben shared students ideas regarding the canteen provision and the steps they have taken to work with the Canteen Manager on changes. Deborah highlighted the need to represent and celebrate the cultures of all students at Waingels in an integrated, day-to-day approach. Nicola reflected on the positive approach taken in tackling issues related to sexual harassment with an emphasis on education, in line with the government guidelines on the PSCHE curriculum. Richard discussed the possibility of small projects, like the use of wonky vegetables, and much bigger projects, such as the installation of solar panels, to keep trying to reduce Waingels’ carbon footprint.  All in all, they all did a brilliant job of explaining complex and sometimes sensitive issues in an informed and confident manner.

It was then over to our Year 9 students! Each Year 9 student was randomly assigned a group in order to give further feedback on the Head Team’s recommendations. There was a real buzz and sense of focus around these groups, as the students took their role very seriously and made excellent contributions to the recommendations proposed.  After discussing and debating the recommendations, it was really impressive to see a student from each group confidently share their feedback at the conference, including ideas like greater debates in class to help students to share and understand each others’ experiences, and the possibility of government grants or funding from local businesses to invest in solar panels and more eco-friendly ICT facilities. The Head Team will take in all of the notes and ideas to further develop their proposals in order to put as many ideas as possible into action.

Mr Bartlett concluded the event by reflecting on the grace, enthusiasm and maturity shown by our Year 9 representatives; we would have liked to have included all year groups, but the Year 9 students present did an excellent job. Mr Bartlett commended the Head Team on their leadership, investigations and insights, and invited them to share their proposals at a governors meeting after half-term so we can try to make these ideas a reality.

A big thank you to all of those involved in the Student Voice groups, the Student Council and the Head Team, as well as our Site Team for setting up the hall, Mrs Crisp for helping with printing delegate booklets, and Miss Yiannapas for taking some excellent photographs.

We look forward to sharing our next steps with you all in future newsletters; if you would like to get more involved in student voice, please do email Miss English EngLEN@waingels.wokingham.sch.uk

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