At Westhoughton High, each year group has a Year Council, five in total and they meet at least once every half term to raise any concerns or viewpoints from within the student body and plan social action projects that benefit the school or wider community. Although supported by staff and senior prefects, each Year Council chooses their own Chair Person and Secretary to lead their own meetings and record any matters discussed or actions arising. They also elect 2 of their number to have a seat on the School Council Executive who meet regularly with senior prefects to decide the strategic direction, planning and delivery of any School Council led social action.
In terms of student voice, in school we believe in giving all students the opportunity to express their voice democratically by electing their own school council representatives and working with them throughout the year to raise their concerns, seek clarity and also contribute to the decision making that takes place in school, working in collaboration with the senior leaders and governors on a wide range of decisions such as school policies, environmental changes, catering contracts and senior appointments. Locally, our lead School Council representatives also attend the Bolton Youth Conferences every year to explore with other student leaders from across Bolton a vision for their town in 2030 and to celebrate and share good practice. Nationally, we also encourage our students to participate in wider youth consultations, such as the annual ‘Make Your Mark’ referendum led by the Youth Parliament which all students vote on every October. This enables them to explore, discuss and raise the big issues for young people within their society and we encourage them, through school council to exercise their personal freedom to raise awareness, campaign and lobby on the issues they have raised as a student body such as knife crime, mental health and the importance of emergency first aid education and defibrillators in schools.
Social action is also important at Westhoughton High because we want all our students to learn to listen to and connect with some of the more vulnerable groups in their community. We also want them to experience the joy of giving their time, resources and talent to others in the hope that this might inspire a new generation of volunteers and community champions. One way this is achieved is by giving the School Council leadership of the annual ‘Let’s Share Christmas’ project which is a huge community drive involving students, staff, parents and local community groups in order to share the joy of Christmas with those of our local community facing challenges relating to old age, ill health, caring for others or experiencing financial hardship. The School Council executive meets regularly to lead strategically on the project and Year Councils are then given responsibility for different strands and for promoting the community drive. Where possible, students from School Council who have been heavily involved in leading this drive along with students from outside of School Council who have shown tremendous support for it, are given the opportunity to hand over presents in person and so get to experience first-hand the joy such acts of kindness creates for others. For example, in December 2018 over 100 students went into the community to handover in excess of 300 gifts to the elderly as well as hundreds of chocolate oranges to patients at Bolton Hospital and for those caring for them. In recent years, School Council has also been able to deepen some of the connections such experiences create through working closely with Senior Solutions to develop an adopted grandparent project. This has led to many wonderful intergenerational experiences and given our student body some powerful individual stories about life, love, death and the power of kindness to make a difference.