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Consultation and Participation with Children in Healthy Schools: Choice, Conflict and Context

Abstract

In this paper we report on our use of a participatory research methodology to consult with children in the UK on how to improve pupil well-being in secondary schools, framed within the wider social policy context of healthy schools. We worked with children on the selection of our research methods and sought to voice the views of children to a local education authority to improve the design of school environments. The consultation process ultimately failed not because the children were unforthcoming with their views on either methods or on well-being in schools, but because of difficulties in how their views were received by adults. We show how the socio-economic, cultural and political context in which those difficulties were set might have led to the eventual break down of the consultation process, and we draw out a number of possible implications for consultative and participatory work with children in school settings.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Healthy Cities is a programme in the World Health Organisation’s Health for all Strategy.

  2. 2.

    In the UK, A white paper is a document released by the government detailing proposed new legislation. It follows from a government green paper, which is a consultative document that contains a number of policy options for parliamentary debate.

  3. 3.

    LEAs are local government bodies that organise state funded education.

  4. 4.

    We abbreviate this to the ‘LEA’ in our paper. A LEA Healthy Schools Team comprises staff from a LEA and from local Primary Care Trusts (part of the National Health Service that is tasked with improving the health of a local population).

  5. 5.

    Schools in the public sector refers to non-fee paying, publicly funded schools and are not to be confused with public schools, which in England and Wales are private, independent, fee-paying secondary schools.

  6. 6.

    OFSTED inspections are Government inspections of schools conducted every 4 years by the Office for Standards in Education. We discuss the social policy context of OFSTED later in this paper.

  7. 7.

    From the age of 15 years, pupils in England study for General Certificates of Secondary Education (GCSEs) in a number of academic subjects (usually six) over a period of 2 years and take GCSE exams at the end of this period. These are the final years of compulsory education after which pupils can either seek employment or go onto tertiary education (college and university). Grades awarded range from ‘A’ for the highest and ‘G’ for the lowest.

  8. 8.

    The term “local authority” in the UK refers to political governance at a local (county or metropolitan) level.

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Duckett, P., Kagan, C. & Sixsmith, J. Consultation and Participation with Children in Healthy Schools: Choice, Conflict and Context. Am J Community Psychol 46, 167–178 (2010). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10464-010-9327-8

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Keywords

  • Children
  • Consultation
  • Participatory research
  • Education