students in circleImagine an education system that values and gives respect to every student and where being supported to learn in the way that best suits each child is a right, not a privilege. You are imagining a democratic education.

 

Democratic education tends to refer to an education that focuses on:
- Self-determined learning.
- A learning community based on equality and mutual respect.

 

There are many ways in which an education can be democratic and Phoenix Education Trust doesn’t necessarily believe that one is better than another. We do however believe that finding ways to ensure students have a say in what they are learning can make them active citizens in their education, rather than passive consumers.

 

Sands School is a model of a democratic school where students make the main decisions, including the rules and their enforcement. The students are also in charge of their own educational journey, in terms of what subjects they study and even when they study it.

 

Teachers are equals with students - they may help facilitate lessons, but are on first name terms with all students. The day-to-day running of the school is then decided by a weekly democratic meeting, where issues can be brought up and decisions are voted on.

 

Sands is an extremely successful school and its founder Sean Bellamy has been nominated for the Global Teaching Prize as a result of this work. Click here to find out more about Sands.

 

This modelmay not be possible for all schools but there are plenty of ways in which a school can be more democratic and collaborative. For example, having a student council allows students a forum to discuss issues affecting their education and pursue change in a way that allows them to develop citizenship skills and feel empowered.

 

Consulting students councils or the student body at large on aspects of school life such as rules, uniforms, timetabling is another collaborative measure. Embedding collaboration can create an ethos that gives students a stake in their education.

 

Democratic Education is something all schools can aspire to. In fact, it’s basic premise is compatible with Article 12 of the UN Convention of the Rights of the Child which advocates that all children should be given a say the decisions that affect them.

 

Phoenix Education runs various schemes that allows schools to develop democratic or collaborative structures and that give students confidence in things like communication. Our Questions for Change tool can also report on how collaborative your school is and set you on the next step of your democratic journey.

 

Useful links:

Rachel Roberts - Why we need a democratic revolution in schools

Danny Whitehouse - My Democratic Journey

Rachel Roberts - How Democratic Education changed my life

Phoenix Education Trust - Can kids run schools?

EUDEC - What is democratic education? A European perspective

Jamie Green - How are refugees using democratic education?

Phoenix Education Trust - 5 Way to Embed Democracy in the Classroom 

Phoenix Education Trust - In Conversation with Sean Bellamy from Sands School

 

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