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Top ideas to improve your school council

Greg Sanderson – Smart School Councils Community

How can you change your school council to make it more active and easy to run?

The first few weeks back at school after a break are a pretty crazy time, and loads of school councils launch right back into the bad practice that they’ve always done. To challenge this, here are ten simple ideas that you should try and which will help your school council be more successful, youth-led and self-managing!

1. Get a budget

Even a very small budget of £50 a year can really help your school council to be able to act quickly, have the tools to raise more money, and feel trusted and important.

To get this, it might seem like a bit of a daunting thing to ask your headteacher for some money. But there are a few things you can do to show that your school council means business. Firstly, democratically appoint a treasurer who is trustworthy, reliable and responsible. Make sure they know it’s their job to spend the money and account for it. The school council can then put together a presentation for the Head or SMT showing how they would spend the money, and who decides if things change.

Here’s some more advice on school council budgets.

2. Work on your school council boundaries

Lots of school councils don’t know what they can and cannot do. This leads to confusion and frustration for everyone!

Use this school council boundaries exercise to work out exactly what is on and off limits to your school council.

3. Don’t rush straight into an election!

Never rush straight into a school council election; candidates won’t know what they’re applying for, turnout will be low, and you will have missed a really good opportunity to raise the profile of the school council.

It is much better to take the time to give a really clear idea to students of what’s involved in being a school councillor. Some schools even have their school council elections a month before term ends in summer. This gives the new school councillors the chance to shadow the old ones for a month before the break, and then start school in August/September with a clear idea of what to do – great!

Here’s some school council election ideas and resources for you.

4. Read up on some great case studies

A very simple one this one: Read some great school council case studies, much better than listening to my advice!

5. Get a school council progress board

You’ve all seen it; a dusty school council minutes noticeboard that hasn’t been changed since 2003. Sound familiar?

A better idea is to get your school council to build a school council progress board. This means you can keep track of each of the projects, the next steps, your successes and also the things you can’t do. Importantly, this can also help you communicate what you’re doing to the rest of the school.

Fancy doing this? Here’s the resource you’ll need to help you to build the school council progress board.

6. Overhaul your meetings

Poorly run school council meetings are one of the main hurdles to a school council. If your school council meetings are led by a teacher, you need to start a plan to get a young person leading them. If meetings are boring, then you can incorporate games and movement to keep people awake and engaged.

Here’s a bunch of school council meeting ideas for you to try out.

7. Create a youth-led vision

What are you trying to do as a school council? Do you know? Does anyone know? Do other people in the school know?

You should really have a vision statement so the place that you’re aiming for is really clear, and everyone can get behind it.

Here’s a resource on how to create a school council vision statement. For younger students, you might want to do this through images by using our school council shield resource. If you’re looking for some actual school council shields (the badge kind) you can find them here.

8. Help the reps to really understand their role

School council representatives need to know what’s involved, and the clue is in the name: REPRESENTATION. You’re representing the ideas, needs and concerns of the people who voted you in, not just your own! School council representatives also need to be approachable and open to other people’s ideas around the school.

Here’s a school council representatives toolkit to help you, and if you’re a primary school, then you can buy our ‘How to be a Smart School Councillor’ handbook.

And to make reps more visible around the school, you can also get some school council badges at our school council shop.

9. Run a school council assembly and a school council surgery

Get the school council to put on an engaging, fun and informative assembly. Standing up in front of everyone isn’t for everybody, so work to the groups strengths, but there’s other ways that everyone can get involved by contributing ideas, writing a script or doing a powerpoint presentation. Tell the school that you’re there to listen and to help them!

Also, set up a school council surgery. This usually works by having two school council members who sit at a certain part of the school at a certain time to give information, take ideas or answer questions about the school council. For example, this could be every Wednesday lunchtime outside the library. This can really help to connect the school council with the rest of the school.



I'm an ex-teacher with a real passion for education, politics and teaching. I am also a keen writer and blogger with strong opinions.

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