By Andy | January 14, 2018 | 1 Comment
This is part two of a three part series of articles on student leadership – If you haven’t already read Part 1, you can do so by following this link:
In the first part of this series of articles looking at Student Leadership, I explored some of my thinking about the issues to do with how we think about student leadership and whether we see it as being something which should be available to everyone or just the select few.
Following a period of reflection and consultation, including speaking to other schools about how they run their system, we decided to make some significant changes for the current year.
Our system of student-led committees, covering key areas within the school, had proved extremely successful in terms of giving the student leadership roles real purpose, but hadn’t always enabled everyone who would benefit from this experience to do so. As a school we committed to providing good leadership opportunities for our students so that they will develop their skills for now, and for their futures.
For the system to really work there needs to be a number of different opportunities for students to engage in leadership – house roles, sporting roles, musical roles, whole school roles and committees. The different roles should involve different levels of commitment, but all of them should put an emphasis on student leadership and school development. One of the important changes we made was that some roles, such as leading a committee, should rotate; this will provide students with the flexibility to take a lower-key role for some parts of the year, and step up to more public leadership for a term so that it can work better around their other commitments such as music college auditions or exams.
Student leadership though isn’t just about providing the opportunity, unless we also provide them with the tools and skills to be successful. So alongside redesigning the way the opportunities work, we also needed to put together a more thorough leadership training programme which would run three times across the year, so that students taking up more public leadership roles can undertake appropriate training before they begin.
This evolving system will give a much wider group of students the chance to experience leadership as well as to learn about it and benefit from training.
Below is a copy the presentation I gave to students outlining the details of how this was going to operate at Wells Cathedral School this academic year:
So that was the plan, we rolled this out at the end of last year. Students were asked to apply for one or more roles, then began the long and complicated process of matching people to roles. This involved lots of people, and a particularly rigorous process for the appointment of the Head Boy and Girl.
The appointment of the Head Boy and Girl took part in three stages, like a real job interview. Initially they were asked to write a letter of application outlining why they felt they’d be suitable for the role. We then had a long list round which included about 15 students who spent an afternoon completing a range of outdoor group work tasks, which enabled us to assess them against a range of criteria. This enabled us to shortlist around 3 boys and 3 girls to go through to the final round who had a formal 30min interview with me (as Head), the Head of Sixth Form, the current Head Boy & Girl, and a former Head Boy/Girl who had left the school in the last 5 years. This provided both a useful experience for the students who took part, but also provided genuine insights to the students which helped make the process fair and balanced.
In the final part of the series I’m going to begin to reflect on how this has worked in practice this year.