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Student voice at Ilam School

7:09 minutes

Download (mov, 15.34 MB)

Principal Lyn Bird says one of the most crucial things is to include the voices of all the different groups within the community. One of those very important groups is, of course, the voice of children.

Kids' curriculum group

Ilam School has a kids' curriculum group that informs teachers on a range of curriculum related issues. They may be saying what the key competencies mean for them or they may be looking at inquiry learning and planning.

The current group is looking at the future focus theme for 2010, using a narrative process to plan out the three inquiries for the year. This will inform teachers in term four when they have a teacher only day to plan for next year.

It is important to have a kids curriculum group because if the kids plan it the kids at the school will like it more.


We’re kids ourselves so we know what we want and we know what other people like as well.


Kids who are younger than you look up to you and we have some house captains here so they will follow the house captains.


It has made us think that teachers don’t just stand by their whiteboard and jot things down for us to do they actually maybe in the weekend and holidays especially, they plan stuff for us to learn. They don’t just make it up as they go along which I used to think they do.


Lyn believes that an effective way to bring about any change in a school is to use student voice to its greatest capacity.

Values group

Ilam School has a student values group who advise on how values are to be presented to students in class. They are one of the strongest voices in the school. Belinda Kennedy explains how this arose:

"As a values group we talked about what are values, why should you follow them and how do you get other people to follow the rules? Some of the children said, ‘We don’t follow those rules, who made them?’

We looked at how we could get student voice around school rules and who would decide in the end. The values group went out into every class talking to students and teachers, and they gathered information about every sort of rule that we should live by. We then fused these rules together to come up with our Mahi Pai expectations for behaviour. The values group took these to each class and asked them what they thought of them and then they were presented at assembly. This meant that everyone had a say in the creation of the expectations. Students could all see their contribution to the rules and now they know that they can live by them. I think it is really important that students have that voice. These expectations are for everyone in the school, the children and the adults."

We kind of all get together once or twice a term and work on things. Like last term we came up with new behaviours for the school. We went round all the classrooms and put a sign in the staff room so teachers could write down what they thought they might be. We came up with about 50 rules, but some were the same so we narrowed them down to about five and most of them usually work.


We tried to make them positive rules rather than negative ones to make them more friendly to children.


Kids should have a say because sometimes some kids don’t listen to the teachers when they say behave well. They find it easier to relate to other kids because they are the same age.


I think it is easier for kids to relate to the children and we make it look more fun with the videos that we make. That is easier than saying here’s a list of rules, go learn them off by heart and stuff like that.


We have recently made a film explaining the new rules so the juniors can understand what they are about. They are simple rules like be kind and respect other people and things like that so it is easier for the juniors to understand.


We have these things called playground pals and we have these special orange shirts. They are like peer mediators, like duty teachers and they go around the school and the playground and if people aren’t getting along they sort it out and end up playing with them. They take kids to join in another game if they are lonely and stuff. And we also have safe seats that if you are not feeling safe in the playground and you can sit in a seat and hopefully someone will come along and play with you.


It is sort of like we are finding solutions to deal with other things. So that’s cool.


Belinda explains, 'Because of this process to develop shared expectations, I think we are much more reflective and we are much more accepting of mistakes. We talk about behaviours when they go wrong as a mistake and that is a learning opportunity. So the teacher can teach at that point and the student can learn from it. It is okay to make mistakes, that is how we learn. And we encourage that in our everyday classroom, we want children to make mistakes so they can improve and that is exactly the same with their behaviour. So they have made a mistake, it is not their problem, it is just a problem that we can now solve together.'

Review questions image.

How is student voice being valued in your school?

Do you think any of these ideas or a variation on them could work in your school?

student voice

Published on: 10 Dec 2009