George Mitchell All-Through School (GMATS) is a mixed multi-cultural comprehensive, catering for children from 3-16 years of age, located in the heart of Leyton, Waltham Forest.

Student Voice (SV) at George Mitchell is an important part of the school community. We use the term Student Voice as the umbrella name for the activities students have an influence or an opinion on. We have several strands of SV of which are outlined below.

 

Student Governing Body (SGB)

Each tutor group elects a student representative (Rep) who attends the SGB meetings, elections take place yearly. The Rep is the voice of their tutor group and acts as the conveyor of information to and from their tutor group and the SGB meetings. 

Reps have a Head teacher Question Time twice per year where the Head teacher is questioned by the Reps on the issues raised by the student body.  Question Time is filmed and shown to the students so they can see the full discussions happened between the reps and the head teacher.

This year, the Head gave the student body, £5000 to spend, on the premise that it has the majority vote and was implemented by the students. Initially the Reps questioned their Tutor groups to get ideas; the results were collated and put into a survey which each tutor group voted on. When all the votes were counted the top 3 then went back for a final vote. Not surprisingly, most of the students wanted more trips; however, the conundrum now is how to take nearly 1000 students on a trip! One Rep came up with selecting students on progress; another said the whole of Y11 should have a trip... So now we are back to the surveys again.

This has been, and still is, a fantastic hands-on experience for the students to see democracy at work; having a voice, making decisions, implementing the decisions fairly and to recognise that putting words into actions on a large scale can take time.                                                                                                                                                                                                         

 

FAB - Fighting Against Bullying

FAB is a peer mentoring service offered by student in Years 9 -11. This initially started 10 years ago, as an anti-bullying group, supporting students who were being bullied or were bullying. As bullying decreased over the years it has been running, the service has developed and expanded its remit. The mentors now offer support to students who need help making friends, need support in the playground or would like an older student to talk to.  Each mentor is assigned to a Y7 tutor group to ease their transition into secondary school. They offer advice and support, but they also act as a point of contact for the Y7s in the playground or in school.

 

Peer Mediation

Peer mediation is offered to students at GMATs thought FAB. This is where students from a similar age group support other students with their issues.  LEAP -Confronting Conflict has delivered training to students to help resolve low level conflict such as falling out, name calling and teasing. Peer Mediation has been running for 3 years and is used by students from different years. It's a valuable resource as it give the mediators as sense of responsibility and develops their communication skills which, not only benefits the school community, but they also have skills to take with them when they move on to further education. The other students like it to too, as they often look up to the students and feel more at ease with them talking about their conflicts with someone their age.

 

Student Interview Panel

Students form an integral part of staff recruitment at GMATS where each candidate has a panel interview comprised of students. This is quite a rigorous interview and the students are professional in their approach and give a good analysis of their findings. Students are selected from all year groups and all abilities from both primary and secondary.

Once all interviews have been conducted, they debrief and then meet with the Staff coordinating the interviews. They discuss their findings with the staff and prioritise the candidate they think would be a good addition to the staff team. 

Their views are considered carefully and quite often the students' panel and the staff panel agree on who to employ. Where there have been differences, for instance, if the students think one candidate is particularly good and the staff are unsure, they will give the candidate an interview. Alternatively, if the students don't think a candidate was good enough and the staff do, the candidate may still go through the interview process but the candidate will be questioned in more detail in the area the students felt they were weakest.

All the students who have taken part in this process are given job descriptions and training on how to conduct the interview - from the confidentiality aspect to active listening and questioning techniques. They find the experience fascinating and are amazed to be on the other side of the desk. They feel their opinions are taken seriously and they are valued.

Many say they will remember this experience for when they have interviews and use what they've learnt there. Having interviewed good and poor candidates, they have a firsthand knowledge of what makes a good interview for when they are applying for college and employment.

 

Peer Effect Project

Students from Y9 and 10 have been given training from Student Voice on communication, working in teams and how to run a campaign. They have had 3 full days working on different skills and then smaller workshops implementing these skills into developing campaigns.

Students have raised awareness about child abuse and animal cruelty, with posters assemblies and raised money with a bake sale and donation box.  The project hasn't yet finished, and we expect to hear more from them.

To see more about what George Mitchell students did as part of this project click here

 

Research groups

Having and sharing an opinion is very important for our students and whenever possible we like them to be involved in research groups. This helps with their social and communication skills and helps them to develop a wider understanding of the community. We involve different students each time depending on the research being done.  We have had an undergraduate from Bath University use GMATS for her research on Student Voice. Another has been Waltham Forest Library Service, Using our students for their opinions and ideas on the renovation of Leyton Library and how to make it 'youth friendly'.

 

Claire Henderson - Social Inclusion Manager