Tuesday, 23 June 2015

Thoughts on Day One of the Cambridge Student Voice Conference 2015

Well, I don't have loads of time to go in depth into my thoughts on the first day, but I do want to make a few points while they are still fresh in my mind.

      First of all, I was absolutely blown away by the way student voice is conducted in Denmark. A groups called The Association of Danish Pupils (DSE), which is a non-governmental organisation of 30 employees – half who are adults and half who are teenagers - came to do a presentation and tell us about how student voice works in their country. It really put the level of student voice use here in the UK to shame, and made  me realise how 'backwards' we are in some regards. The students at the conference were so confident and so assured that their voices would be heard. The whole country seems to value democracy at such a different level than we do here. 

      Being a part of the DSE, students are able to take a year off before going to college, where they all live together in house, working from 8am – 4pm each day, unpaid. Primarily, they work with student councils, educating them on the laws and rights that they have, or how to get an active pupil council which  works with different layers of education. For example, the president of the DSE, a 16 year old girl, meets with Minister of Education every two months, does work with the ministry, and oversees regional work amongst the different branches of the DSE – there is a branch in each of the 5 regions of Denmark. 

Some of the things they discuss with students across the country are school reforms – they go around informing pupils about the new government reforms regarding education. The students told us about how last year they visited 700 schools to share information with the students; this is such a huge feat, and something that is unheard of in my own professional experience. 

They also operate a Pupil Hotline, where students can call and speak to other students about things that bother them. All of the people who work at the hotline are volunteers between the ages of  15-18 and have been properly trained to deal with tough situations. 

Essentially, schools have a choice on whether to buy into the DSE – it costs roughly £400 a year – and many public schools take part (about half of the schools in Denmark are currently part of the DSE, which amounts to roughly 900 member schools). Students can be personal members as well for £10 a year. This is for if individual schools don't want to be involved.

I just found the whole concept so amazing. I'd really love to learn more about it!

I also, very briefly, want to mention how proud I am of my own student research team. They came to the conference not sure of what to expect, and to be fair neither did I. When Michael Fielding opened the conference up with his Keynote speech, I found myself looking to the students to see how they were taking it all in; I must admit, they looked a little out of their depth. I was a bit worried that they wouldn't be able to access some of the information they heard throughout the day.

However, immediately after Michael's speech (which I found thoroughly enjoyable, by the way!), Roger Holdsworth broke the ice with a little activity which got everyone up and about, talking and engaging with each other. The students were a bit hesitant to mill about at first, but after getting over their initial shyness they spent the rest of the day actively talking and participating with various people at the conference. During two separate sessions they were called upon directly to share their ideas, perspectives and experiences, and they handled themselves with maturity and intelligence beyond my expectations. I was truly proud of them and felt thankful for having had the opportunity to work alongside such a lovely bunch of students.

Anyways, that's all for now.