I have just read two very different articles which could be interpreted as ‘pupil voice’. One, written by a teenager at the coalface of the exam system, is scathingly well-written, sharing her frustrations with the limitations of her school’s curriculum. The other, written by a teacher talks about the conflicts some teachers experience when pupil voice is foist upon them, where their teaching is critiqued and pupil’s voices taken into consideration school-wide. It also highlights the strength that collaboration with young people can build. I like that. I like that young people are taken seriously, but that staff are listened to and their well-being and professional expertise also considered.
Pupils should not rule the roost; neither should teachers obfuscate pupil’s voices entirely.
The voices of all stakeholders in a community should be heard and their effects on each other considered. Children are viewed as both subject to structural constraints (becomings) and also as beings, with their own agency by Emma Uprichard. Her views form the basis of an incredibly powerful model of childhood and youth, which underpins much academic research, which subsequently informs policy work. Their views must be taken into account at school. The agency afforded to young people is arguably greater than ever in current English policy. But there are structural constraints: age, responsibility; accountability; budgets; the voices of others.
The voices of teachers.
In the promotion of pupil voice to empower young people, to help give them ownership of their curriculum, to help inform teaching methods, to devise programmes which pique the interest of learners etc. ad infinitum, the voices of classroom teachers must not be forgotten. The have training, skills and knowledge which inform their classroom practice.
True, effective collaboration, which includes pupil voice, also considers teacher voice and allows both parties’ views to be heard without undermining the professional position of teachers and calling their expertise into question.