From the Chairman

At one stage in the UK's political history, it was very much a case of "survival of the fittest" and "the weak shall go to the wall". Fortunately society is a great deal more compassionate these days. And all the better for it. The teaching of PSHE, to me, is a giant societal step forward. Properly done, it instils life-skills that are arguably of more practical use than, say, mathematical formulae in many real lives. It teaches compassion, which is a wonderful thing.

Compassion? How so? Well, compassion starts with listening to one another with open ears.

My heart reaches out to the boy or girl who doesn't get listened to and doesn't have a voice. At school, at home or wherever. I watch the NSPCC's adverts (sadly based on reality) and I shudder. It's all to easy for adults to forget to listen to children but taking time to listen is living proof that "I care". So thank you from us all at School Councils UK to the brilliant teachers out there who really do care, who really do listen. I am sure that many children get more true care from those teachers than at home.

For me then, the first among life-skills is the process of listening to one other. But not just listening. Listening with respect. The finest example of listening with respect is hearing a range of views and accepting the verdict of the majority. That's what we call democracy. That's tolerance. That's where society says "tell me what you think". That's where the disadvantaged have an equal voice.

Therefore, democracy in schools is a jaw-droppingly obvious thing to encourage, in my view. A no-brainer, as they say. It is our principal chance to give the disadvantaged children that equal voice.

But hey, we can't just stop at having a vote about the colour of the school toilets. Just as democracy in wider society touches on almost every aspect of life, school democracy should reflect the real lives of young people who are at school.

The PSHE curriculum is closely aligned with what I think School Councils UK should be about, namely to be a forum for the concerns young people have in their real lives. It should be there for young people have a channel to express a consensus view outwards. Importantly, School Councils UK should also be a useful channel in the inward direction, supporting and complementing the teaching of life-skills. Hence our initiative on hand hygiene, for example. In the future, there will be more really useful initiatives in other areas of life-skills. The PSHE curriculum addresses many real-life problems. It deals with real issues about which the young have real views. School councils are the natural place for those views to have their outlet.

So School Councils UK should help young people grow the life skills they will need in adulthood. School Councils UK's direction should just as certainly be one of
listening with respect to the views of young people;
of encouraging adults to lead by example by actually listening with respect to young people;
and of encouraging young people to listen with respect to each other.
Then the young people who normally get stomped on and whose views don't normally get heard, will have a voice.

Yikes, that's a cause worth fighting for, isn't it?


Stephen Page, Chairman