This is the third of a series of five blogs about why listening to pupils is key to tackling the cost of the school day. Richard Barrie, who works as a Cost of the School Day Practitioner in Coventry, shares some examples of what pupils have told us about school costs.
Here in Coventry, children and young people are very aware of the key costs and challenges when participating in school life. They have told us about a range of barriers including school uniform: ‘[It’s] expensive because you have to look after it as well’ (Year 8 pupil, 13 years old); and trips: ‘To be honest, most [of] the students don’t go on the trips because they can’t afford them.’ (Year 12 pupil, 17 years old)
School costs have a detrimental impact on a pupil’s experience and create barriers to participation. For example, non-uniform days leave some pupils feeling isolated: ‘You might feel left out and sad because maybe some people can’t afford clothes other than their school uniform.’ (Year 5 pupil, 10 years old)
Pupils have come up with great solutions to overcome cost barriers. One pupil shared their solution for making trips more manageable for families: ‘I think they should show what trips they’re going to do a lot earlier to give people time to make a plan and give them time to pay.’ (Year 12 pupil, 17 years old). Another pupil told us about their idea for alternatives to non-uniform days: ‘Have an art day’ (Year 5 pupil, 10 years old), and another suggested: ‘You could do stuff [activities] in your classroom, or outside, like days where you don’t have to do any [academic/school] work.’
Working collaboratively with pupils has enabled us to learn from their experiences, and pupils have also told us they enjoy the opportunity to share their ideas and suggestions. One pupil said: ‘I think like, a carousel… so people can walk round and just put their ideas on a page…you can see other people’s ideas too'. This has allowed us to learn more about ways to engage young people, and to explore adapting our approach to encourage participation.
Children and young people are the experts in their school experience. Youth participation enables them to be active in highlighting ways that their school supports them, and to be decision makers in ways that their school can make positive changes for the future.