This morning we have heard that the Government is cutting the Free School Meals programme.

From October 2013, if a family earns more than £7,500 a year, they will lose entitlement to Free School Meals for their children.  That’s £7,500 a year – £625 per month – £144.23 per week.

The ability for Local Councils to provide children from poorer families with a Free School Meal has been in place since 1906.  The system of FSM is so entrenched in our Education system that it is even used as one of the statistics in measuring school achievement.

In a survey carried out by Netmums in February this year, it was found that 70% of families are “on the edge of surviving“.  For many children, their lunch at school is their main meal of the day. The same survey showed that 1 in 5 mums are regularly going without food so that their children can eat.

“Every month we are waiting until the next child benefit just so we can buy food.  This week we are going 5 days with only £10 left to our name…..”

In response to the Netmums survey, the Department of Work and Pensions said:

“Our welfare reforms will have a dynamic impact on some of the poorest families and will lift over one million people out of poverty…..”

A woman running a food parcel scheme has said:

“We give out 35 parcels twice a week.  Mostly they go to mothers who are trying to feed families.  Most have children who are school age so at least they get a meal there…”

What can we do?

The Childrens’ Society have produced a Policy Report on the future of free school meals.  You can read it here.

The Childrens’ Society’s “Fair and Square” Campaign aims to ensure that all children in need of a free school meal, receive one.  Please support this campaign, we do.  We passionately believe in the Health and Wellbeing of Children and Young People, and surely Free School Meals are one sign of a compassionate society.

Please may we ask you to sign the Fair and Square petition by clicking on the logo


The Innovation Unit have asked us to let you know about an exciting new Learning Guide they have just launched.  This is what they say about it…..

New Project-based Learning Guide launched by the Innovation Unit

We’re thrilled to announce the publication of Work That Matters: The Teacher’s Guide to Project-based Learning, which we’ve produced in partnership with San Diego’s High Tech High!

Work That Matters was produced as part of Learning Futures, which we ran in partnership with the Paul Hamlyn Foundation.  You can download Work That Matters here.

Project-based learning is soaring in popularity among teachers and school leaders who want to make school a more engaging place to learn.  We have produced this guide because just ‘doing’ project-based learning isn’t enough – in order to engage students, and ensure that they learn, you need to do it well.

This guide offers step-by-step advice on planning and managing extended, interdisciplinary projects, as well as useful protocols for critique sessions, templates for important documents such as project plans, and examples of high-impact projects.

Sir Ken Robinson calls it ‘an impressive and practical resource to help teachers and students alike transform their approach to learning and achievement.

Professor Tim Brighouse, former chief advisor to London Schools, says it  can help and inspire teachers and school leaders to ‘push the frontiers of what is possible.’

Ron Berger, Chief Programme Officer of Expeditionary Learning andf author of An Ethic of Excellence, calls it ‘an unusually thoughtful and valuable resource for teachers … distinguished by a powerful focus on the integrity and quality of projects.

To find out more about project-based learning, and other ways to make school a more engaging place to learn, we would be delighted to see you at one of our ‘flipped conferences’ in Manchester and London. You can read more about our conferences here.  Also, to join the Engaging Schools community, sign up here (tick the ‘Engaging Schools’ box).

Information kindly provided by Cotham School.  This document outlines how they set up and used Learning Detectives to do student lesson observations.  You can read it here, but the final page is supposed to be landscape, so to get the most benefit, do click on the link to download the document.



Newsletter 28, sent out on 22/03/12


We are very pleased to let you know that we have now sorted out the gremlins in the system regarding our online shop domain name.

is now back up and running as usual.  No need to use the .info link any more! Phew!

Why book Training for your School Council?

Well, Ofsted are looking specifically at judgements for pupils’ outcomes, including “the extent to which pupils contribute to the school and wider community”. An effective and well-trained School Council is the way to satisfy this.

During an inspection, Ofsted Inspectors are also specifically tasked with talking with pupils, including “…those holding representative responsibilities, for example as members of the school council”. Are you sure that your School Council is running effectively enough to show an Inspector that you value your students’ views?

Why use School Councils UK to deliver your Training?

We only use Trainers that we know can do the job properly.  All our Trainers are Licensed by us to deliver Training that has been developed and adjusted over the past 19 years.  We have worked with Local Authorities, Infant, Primary and Secondary Schools, and the UK Youth Parliament.  The Training we deliver is updated to include new areas of interest for Student Voice and takes into account the comments we receive via our Training Feedback Forms.

Our Trainers are ex-teachers with a passion for Pupil/Student Voice and Citizenship.  They know how to relate to children and young people.  They use tried and trusted techniques to ensure all participants are focussed and, most of all, they make it fun!

The Students know what they are doing, but I’m a newly appointed Link Teacher, can you help me too?

Certainly!  Our Trainers are equally happy delivering one-to-one Training to teachers new to School Councils as they are training groups of students.  They will spend time with you going over any areas of concern, ensuring that you feel confident enough to guide and advise your Council and SLT.  Remember also, that following your Training, there is always someone here at our offices from 8.30am to 5pm, Monday to Friday, who can provide phone support if you feel unsure about something.

I’m working hard with our School Council and they are doing a fantastic job, so why can’t the rest of the staff understand how important it all is?

Sometimes school staff don’t understand how a really effective School Council can help Whole School Improvement.  It may be that instead of embracing Student Voice, they find it threatening.  Our Trainers can provide Inset or Twilight Training for staff.  Frequently, once staff members understand how a School Council fits into the jigsaw of opinions and suggestions they are keen to expand the Council remit even more!

We can give you a quote….. “Teachers have nothing to fear and everything to gain from research on the effectiveness of pupil participation.  Young people’s active engagement in school life is the best way of preventing alienation and disruption and enhancing achievement.” Steve Sinnott, General Secretary of the NUT 2004-2008.

Why not make the most of your (these days limited) budget, and book Training for the School Council with an add-on Twilight for staff?

Okay, I understand why I should book Training, but what do I ask for?

Depending upon your own experience as a Link Teacher and the experience of the School Council you can choose a variety of options.  The following are just suggestions and the list is by no means exhaustive.  Your Trainer will talk with you beforehand to ensure that the Training covers the areas most relevant to your school and your pupils/students and is appropriate to the length of time you wish to book.

Start from Scratch: 

For a brand new School Council, or one that is being re-vamped, you may wish to “start at the very beginning”. 

  • What is a School Council for?
  • How do we elect Representatives?
  • What do we talk about and who decides?
  • Who is in charge?
  • How do we let the rest of the pupils/students know what we are doing?
  • Decision making
  • Whose view is right or wrong?
  • What areas of school life are we allowed to influence?

 Improve effectiveness & explore deeper issues:

  • How to set up sub-committees
  • From class councils to year councils to executive council
  • Profile raising
  • Project management
  • Negotiation
  • Meeting skills

  Advanced Issues:

  •  Peer mentoring / Buddies
  • Teaching & Learning (including students as observers)
  • Student Governors
  • Getting the School Council involved in writing Policies

 For Staff:

  •  Why School Councils are vital to school improvement
  • How to support Class Reps
  • The importance of allowing Reps time to gather views and give feedback
  • Why School Council meetings should be timetabled as part of the curriculum
  • How you can make the most of involving pupils/students in staff interviews, lesson observations, behaviour, etc
  • How School Councils can improve relationships between staff and pupils
  • How being involved in a School Council can help rebels and “rabble-rousers”  learn skills to help them become Leaders.

 For Link Teachers:

  • How to support the School Council without running it for them
  • Liaison with the SLT
  • How much assistance to give the School Council
  • How to advise, guide & provide basic internal training

Right, now I have an idea of what Training I/we need, what happens next?

We have drawn up a short questionnaire for you to complete.  Please go through the questionnaire and fill it in as fully as you can.  Then, email back to

We will look through the questionnaire and appoint the most appropriate Trainer for you.  This decision will be made according to the type of Training you have requested, and your location.  As all our Trainers are very versatile and experienced, we expect to be able to appoint the Trainer closest to your location.

The Trainer will be given a copy of your questionnaire together with your contact details so that they can be in touch with you direct.  We will inform you who the Trainer will be, so that you can expect their call or email.  If you do not hear from the Trainer within three working days please let us know.

When you liaise with the Trainer, they will draw up your Training Programme, specific to your needs.  They will also discuss with you whether you need a half or whole day.  Sometimes we find that schools request a half day, but then want to cover more than would be ideal in a whole day!  Your Trainer will advise you how to make the most of the time you wish to book which may mean including less content in order that the most important areas can be dealt with properly.  Please remember that our Trainers are used to setting up Training Programmes and their advice is valuable.  We want you and your pupils/students to enjoy the Training and gain the maximum benefit.

This all sounds great, but I’m worried about committing to something before it is approved by my Line Manager!

We understand completely that your SLT or Department Head is going to want to know in detail what you are requesting funding for.  We know that you may want to progress to discussing your requirements with a Trainer before you can get funding approval.  Don’t worry!  Until you agree a date with the Trainer and we send you a Booking Confirmation, you are under no obligation.  Obviously, we have to trust you not to take advantage of our Trainer’s time and goodwill, but we haven’t been let down yet.  Usually, by the time a Link Teacher has discussed what they need with the Trainer, they and their Line Manager are excited by the possibilities and want to firm up all the details as soon as they can!

Oh….. I forgot to ask the important question – what is this going to cost?

No problem.  The prices and details are listed below.  These costs include:

  • Liaison with Trainer to set up your specific training programme
  • Time booked for the training
  • Resources for you and your School Council, typically:- badges, pens, handbooks/pupil booklets, training pack (so you can refresh & reinforce what is covered), year planner.  There may be extra specific items included depending upon what is being covered during your training, these will also be included in the cost.

 The details:

  • Each of our Trainers work with up to 25 pupils/students and at least one teacher.
  • A full day (maximum of 6 hours, including lunch provided by the school, between the hours of 9am–4pm) costs £700.
  • A half day (maximum of 4 hours between the hours of 9am-4pm) costs £400.
  • Staff twilight sessions (as an add-on to a half or full day training, up to 2 hours, finishing no later than 6pm) costs an additional £150.
  • Stand-alone staff sessions are charged as a full or half day depending upon the timing.
  • The earliest our Trainers start is 9am and the latest they finish is 6pm, unless specifically negotiated.
  • Trainers’ reasonable expenses will be extra (travel and subsistence).  Train/taxi fares are recharged at cost, mileage is charged at 40p per mile.
  • In the majority of cases, pre-training planning can be done by telephone and email.  Where meetings in person are required they will be charged as an extra.  Please check with us before arranging meetings so that you don’t incur more costs that you are expecting.
  • All prices are (unfortunately) subject to VAT at the current rate.

 Brilliant, all sounds really great to me, now I’m going to move on to the Questionnaire…..


I don’t think I’m going to get those costs approved.  Is there any way I can still access your Training?

Yes!  You could consider organising Cluster Training.  Many schools are part of a cluster, a pyramid or a federation.  This works really well for small schools with less pupils on the School Council.  Contact two or three other schools to arrange a joint training session and split the costs between you.  Our costs are slightly higher for this, as the requirement for Resources is often different and the Trainer will have to adjust the programme to fit.  However, even split between two schools it makes a difference.

  • The Trainer will work with up to 30 pupils with a minimum of two teachers to assist.
  • For a full day, please add £200 to the costs given above.
  • For a half day, please add £150 to the costs given above.

We simply ask that we liaise with only one of the schools so that administration and organisation is easier.  We are happy to issue multiple invoices splitting the costs however you request us to.  We will need a questionnaire completed for each of the schools taking part in the Training session.

This won’t work for us, we don’t have links with any other appropriate schools, what do I do now?

In 2012, for the first time since the new Management took over in 2009, we are starting to set up Regional Training Days.  Currently we are looking for schools wishing to attend a Regional Training Day in the Birmingham area and will shortly be distributing details of a proposed Regional Training Day in Devon.  If this is more appropriate for you, please email and request details.

Thank you for considering School Councils UK Training.  We are passionate about Pupil/Student Voice and look forward to working with you and your School Council.

David Whiting

Click here to access the Questionnaire

Whether you need help with a brand new School Council, or want your existing School Council to be more effective, our Licenced School Councils UK Trainers can help.  Every course is tailor-made to your exact requirements to enable you to extract best value.  Take a look in more detail by downloading the Info Document below.

If you are a regular visitor to this website, you will have noticed a few changes taking place.  I hope you find it as exciting as we do!

We’ve been taking advice and receiving training from a great organisation called YoungVoice.

YoungVoice is a social enterprise working with young people.  For every “paid for” website, they are able to let two young people set up their own websites for free.  Maybe the young person is undergoing treatment for a major illness, perhaps they need to blog about something major in their life, or even just need to reach out and improve their communication.  This system gives them the chance to do this via their own WordPress website.

So, if you need a simple to use website, do consider contacting YoungVoice! And watch this space as we continue to update and improve our own site with their help.

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