Years 7-11, the secondary school site at d'Overbroeck's, has been running a Smart School Council system in recent years, and they have been incredibly successful in making it work for them. Their system has been refined and customised over the years to get the most out of it, and the results staff have seen are brilliant. Mathematics teacher Beth Peace has been leading the council, and says that seeing the results that have come out of it (like improved student voice, and student confidence-building) is extremely rewarding. Some transformations have been notable. Beth told us that one student who was at first very shy with public speaking has improved significantly due to getting involved in a topic she was interested in, and collaborating with her peers in a safe environment. Now there is no stopping this student, and she is boldly speaking out in her class and getting others organised!
Smart School Council is a programme that provides ideas for a school council team structure and also visualisation options for results such as graphs that appeal to the secondary school age group. From this, schools can build on this system and adapt it as necessary to fit the particular school. At d’Overbroeck’s, the system is organised using both in-person and online collaboration, with lots of fun multi-media options.
We asked Beth more about what the Smart Student Council is, how it works, and how using technology is beneficial for running it.
"Our School Council system at d'Overbroeck's Years 7-11 is working really effectively and we would love to tell you more about how it works at our school. We are now entering the fourth year of our 'Smart School Council' with the idea that the school council should be more inclusive involving every
student, member of staff and parents, too! Students who feel passionately about making a change should be able to drive that change themselves, rather than needing to channel their views through their form rep (as per the old system). There are three key elements to our Smart School Council system: Class Meetings, a Communications Team, and Action Teams.
During morning registration, we hold weekly Class Meetings where every student votes on a topical question. Each meeting lasts 5-10 minutes and they are run by the students, not the teachers! Every form needs to have one Leader, to host the meeting and read out what is on the board, and one Note Taker, who sits at the computer and clicks/types as necessary. As well as asking a new question each week, students also get to see the results of the question from the previous week and any actions that will happen as a result. Every form group also gets to compete to see who will be the first to complete it each week!
To give an example, this half term we asked the following question:
As a result of this Class Meeting, Clare will be starting ‘Futures’ on Wednesday lunchtimes with a different theme each week such as 'Your Superhero CV' – thanks, Clare!
Our Communications Team is a small group of students who keep everyone involved with the School Council and make sure everything runs smoothly. The idea is that change within the school should be driven by students, not by teachers. As well as seeing their smiling faces below, they also recorded quick introduction videos using Flipgrid in our first meeting together.
There are six different roles with two students per role:
- The Class Meetings Tool Leaders take the results from the previous Class Meeting and create a graph, which is printed for the Noticeboard, uploaded to our SharePoint site, and published in What's On (our weekly newsletter to parents). They also use a website tool to create the next Class Meeting using the question from the Question Finders.
- The Question Finders get to choose the Class Meeting Question each week! It must be a question that applies to all year groups, and the answer must be multiple-choice. To choose the question, they get ideas from students, teachers, and the Action Team Developers.
- The Progress Updaters are in charge of keeping everyone up to date with what is going on in the School Council. They update the Noticeboard outside Room 8, our new SharePoint website, and this year they will also make mini videos telling students about the highlights of each half term. Most excitingly, the Progress Updaters make lots of beautiful posters which go up around the school to let everyone know about upcoming events.
- The Action Team Developers take an active role in making positive changes around the school. They help to run some Action Teams and encourage students to set up their own. Action Teams are student-led groups to make positive changes within the school. For example, this might be setting up a new club or organising a fundraising event. You will be able to read more about these in the section below.
- The What's On Writers type an article for What's On each week. They speak to the Class Meetings Tool Leaders to write about the results from the previous week. They also write about any upcoming events or Action Team meetings that students might like to take part in. It's a really exciting role for anyone who might be interested in journalism, and it involves a lot of teamwork with the other roles to make sure they have the most up-to-date information.
- Finally, the Events Organisers plan half-termly events which are really fun and a great way to bring the school community together. 2021-22 was the first year we introduced the role of Events Organisers, and they hosted a huge range of events across the year. In the first half term, the Comms Team designed an online Halloween Quiz for form groups. Then to celebrate Christmas, they organised the Christmas jumper day and a Tinsel the Teacher event to raise money for the ‘Save the Children’ Charity. In January they held a charity bake-off, judged by Paul and Jane (Head of Years 7-11) and raising over £170. For Red Nose Day, they held a non-uniform day, they sold red noses around school AND they held a lunchtime quiz for students to enjoy. They also raised money for the Ukraine conflict with an ‘Anything but a School Bag Day’, inspired by a similar event at the Sixth Form. Finally, in the final half term, they organised the whole school Game Show event, back by popular demand. Each form group competed in the Qualifiers, in the style of Crystal Maze challenges. Finally, the winners from each year group battled it out in a variety of Game Show rounds! It was such a fantastic way to round off the year, and take a look at some photos and posters below to give you a flavour of how it looked at our school:
During September any student who wished to apply was asked to prepare a short speech that they read to the returning members of the Communications Team from last year. The new team has got off to a flying start, and they are making effective use of our Microsoft Office 365 apps to enhance their collaboration. Each role has a section in the 'Collaboration Space' on OneNote, and every student works on their device simultaneously during our meetings. Here's a small snip from the Events Organisers section to give you an idea:
Action Teams are student-led groups to make positive changes within the school. For example, this might be setting up a new club or organising a fundraising event. One of the roles on the Communications Team is the Action Team Developers who help to run some Action Teams and encourage students to set up their own. If students have an idea for a change they would like to make within the school then they can set up an Action Team and make that change! They just need to speak to the Action Team Developers and they will help with whatever they need so we can make d'Overbroeck's Years 7-11 the best place it can be!
Last year one of the huge successes was a School Lunches Action Team. Early in the year, some students wanted to pass on some feedback about the School Lunches, with particular frustration that the delicious desserts sometimes ran out before the end of lunch. The Action Team developers were quick to action, asking a Class Meeting question to gather more information. Following the Class Meeting question, they arranged a lunchtime meeting with Sue, the head of Catering, for any students to drop in and feedback their suggestions to improve the school lunches. Now the puddings never run out, and there have been many more positive changes such as cheese with the jacket potatoes and jugs of water on the tables. Thanks to Sue for listening to our feedback and giving up your time to meet with the students. Following this success, Ishan has arranged another meeting with Sue in November to share any new feedback from this academic year.
As well as looking at school lunches our Action Team Developers have also facilitated some Year 9s in setting up a lunchtime Lego Club and a Gardening Group too, with many more ideas to look at in the coming half term.
Every year we celebrate Anti-Bullying Week at d'Overbroeck's, usually with an Odd Socks Day. This year following a Class Meeting Question, the Events Organisers are running things slightly differently! They are working with some of our Anti-Bullying Ambassadors to plan an event in which we tie a Blue Ribbon around school. They have put out a plea to the school community to bring in any lengths of blue string/ribbon to try and reach 180m (yes, they measured it with a trundle!), with a beautiful poster that has gone up around the school.”
Beth has been doing an excellent job running the school council, using her skills as a teacher to give structure and support where needed, and allowing students to flourish.
Find out more
Find out more about Years 7-11.
You might also be interested in our use of devices policy
Our catering team Holroyd Howe