Since January 2020, we’ve been working with our project partners, Children North East, to poverty proof schools in parts of England, Scotland and Wales. Our team of skilled practitioners have spoken with over 7,500 pupils across Coventry, Greenwich, Kensington and Chelsea, Moray and Rhondda Cynon Taf. Why? To understand from start to finish what the school day is like from their perspective and in particular, which parts of it are hard to access if you don’t have much money, as well as finding out what schools are doing well to make sure all children can participate in school activities regardless of their household income. After a year and a half of working with whole-school communities, both face to face prior to the pandemic and through an adapted remote model more recently, we asked some of our frontline practitioners to reflect on their experiences of working on a pupil-led project and to tell us why they believe listening to pupils is key in tackling the cost of the school day.
Today, we are sharing their insights as a series of blogs. Kirsty Severn, one of our practitioners in Coventry, kicks things off by explaining the process that we use in schools to draw out pupils’ views, experiences and ideas about the school day. The poverty proofing process was pioneered by Children North East in 2011 and is central to our Cost of the School Day delivery work. Throughout the project all our practitioners have been overwhelmed by how willing pupils are to speak to us, and tell us about their schools. Kirsty Campbell, our Moray practitioner, describes her interactions with pupils and reflects on their openness to discuss and explore the topics we raise. Importantly, we want to understand from pupils where difficulties might lie throughout the school day for poorer pupils. Rich Barrie, who also works as a Coventry practitioner, gives examples of the types of barriers pupils have talked about, as well as some of their ideas on how to improve the school day. As part of the process, we provide feedback to the head teacher and senior leadership team, sharing everything we’ve heard from our time at the school. Rhian Reynolds, one of our practitioners based in South Wales, talks about how valuable schools have found hearing from pupils and what changes they intend to make as a result of taking part in the project. All of our poverty proofing work is underpinned by a set of child-centred values. Francesca Hogg, our poverty proofing practice advisor, describes the project values and how they contribute to our project aim of making sure all children and young people can take part and be happy at school.
We hope these insights help to inspire schools and other organisations to put children’s voices at the centre of their work, as we know this helps to create change that makes a difference to their lives.