Review: How to Improve Your School by Giving Pupils a Voice

Originally published in Meaningful Student Involvement Research Guide by Adam Fletcher (2004) Olympia, WA: SoundOut.

Review of “How to Improve Your School: Giving Pupils a Voice” by J. Rudduck & J. Flutter. Published in 2004 by Continuum in New York and London.

How to Improve Your School successfully argues that a range of circumstances necessitates that students must been seen and engaged differently than ever before, and that schools can and should change to encourage that transformation.

The authors draw on a variety of evidence in a comprehensive examination of the roles of students today, offering detailed accounts of students’ ability to actively contribute to school change.

Despite being centered on school reform in the UK, How to Improve Your School is the seminal publication regarding student inclusive school change.

The authors successfully navigate a wide variety of information, from the history of young people involved in formalized learning to the current activities, assumptions, and advocates calling for Meaningful Student Involvement.

Their succinct accounts offer a strong foundation from which a wide range of research and advocacy can be conducted. This is the most comprehensive scan of what student inclusive school change looks like in schools today.

Rudduck and Flutter spend several chapters explaining research that consulted students in school change. The program, called The Learning School, explored three successive groups of young people who evaluated secondary schools around the world.

After being trained in basic research methods, student researchers spent six weeks in teams looking at each of the eight schools. Important barriers are also identified.

This project demonstrated that not only are students taking different roles in schools, but that it is also important to think and reflect on aspects of learning that are important to them (p28).

Another project highlighted the way meaningful student involvement actually transformed U.K. schools by tracking the changes in policy and practice that reflected students’ comments.

According to the authors, teachers gain a variety of benefits from student inclusive school change that include:

  • A more open perception of young people’s capabilities;
  • A readiness to change thinking and practice in light of these perceptions;
  • A practical agenda for improvement and a renewed sense of excitement in teaching (p152).

The book continues by mapping the multiple dimensions through which students can influence change, provide multiple arguments for young people’s involvement, and identify multiple issues and agendas that student involvement advocates seek to fulfill.

The closing chapters of How to Improve Your School address the educational foundation of student involvement, and offer a conclusion that resolves to put students in central, meaningful, and sustainable roles throughout schools.

By providing a broad cross-examination of theory, research and action, How to Improve Your School offers the most effective validation of student inclusive school change to date.

This is not just an important book for student advocates; it is an essential read for all school improvement leaders.

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