Participation of children and young people

Why involve young people?

Children and young people are far more likely to accept and respect the school’s behaviour and anti-bullying policy if they are involved in developing and writing it.

Actively involving and putting children and young people at the centre of the design, delivery and evaluation of the school’s anti-bullying initiatives is far more likely to make them successful as they will be based on actual need and what young people want, rather than on what adults think they want.

For the schools:

Schools, which have consulted and engaged children and young people on all aspects of their behaviour and anti-bullying policies and procedures, have recognised:

  • Improved standards of behaviour and attendance
  • Improved relationships between teachers, children and young people
  • A reduction in bullying incidents and conflict across the whole school community
  • A reduction in teacher/staff time spent on bullying issues

For the community:

Participation can help protect children and young people against bullying. The failure of adults to listen to, and act upon, children and young people’s concerns about bullying is a recurring theme

Principles of children’s and young people’s participation

Involving children and young people in decision-making should be underpinned by the following principles:

1. A Clear and visible commitment to involving children and young people with a route map of how to make it happen.

  • A public commitment to the principle and practice by Chief Education Officers, governing bodies and headteachers, understood by everyone.
  • Setting out what will happen For example, in a strategic or community plan, reflecting the organisation’s needs and budget.
  • Setting out expectations. For example, LEAs might wish to consult children and young people about their perceptions of priorities for school improvement.

2. Children’s and young people’s involvement is valued

This will include:

  • Respecting and trusting all children and young people.
  • Making appropriate information available, timely and relevant.
  • Managing expectations i.e. being clear about what is ‘out of bounds’ for practical, legal or political reasons.
  • Providing clear and timely feedback on outcomes to all children and young people, not just those directly involved in the process.
  • Celebrating achievements and highlighting where outcomes have made a difference.

3. Children and young people have equality of opportunity to be involved

This should ensure that:

  • No-one is excluded or prevented from getting involved on grounds of race, religion, culture, disability, age, ethnic origin, gender, language or the area in which they live.
  • Age, maturity and understanding are considered when deciding how to involve them.
  • Ways are found to involve those who may appear to lack confidence or motivation, or are less articulate.
  • Special support is provided to help ‘hard to reach’ groups and those facing the greatest barriers e.g. some pupils with Special Educational Needs (SEN).
  • The level of confidentiality and privacy that applies to the decision making process is made clear to all participants.

4. Children’s and young people’s participation and involvement are continually evaluated and reviewed

It is important to:

  • Measure how well the practice is meeting the rationale and success criteria set out from the start
  • Involve children and young people in evaluation process and review of lessons learned

5.     Quality standards

  • Abide by agreed quality standards and codes of conduct for working with children and young people.
  • Handle child protection issues in line with established standards.
  • Agree rules on confidentiality and data protection in line with the law.

Further Information:

Working Together, Giving Children and Young People a Say, DfES, 2004

How do we do it?

Involve children and young people as early as possible and at every stage of the design, delivery and evaluation of your anti-bullying policies and procedures. This will ensure that your anti-bullying policies and procedures are in tune with children and young people’s needs and experiences of anti-bullying.

Practical Issues

Participation should be a worthwhile experience for all concerned. However, bullying can be an emotive issue, particularly where a child or young person may have been subjected to bullying themselves. Therefore, talking to children and young people about bullying will need to be handled with great care and sensitivity. You will need to think about:

  • Using experienced facilitators with the right skills and training.
  • Setting clear ground rules with children and young people from the start and revisiting them at the beginning of every session.
  • Discussing issues of Child Protection, confidentiality and disclosure with children and young people.
  • Offering children and young people the opportunity to talk about their individual experiences of bullying outside of the group setting.
  • Providing information to children and young people about how to access trained counsellors and other advice and support if they are being bullied.

Remember – make sure children and young people can have access to support before and after any consultation or participation and that adults are also fully briefed on the need to handle this work with care and sensitivity.