Pupils as citizens: encouraging civic participation

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Civic competence can be nurtured during primary and secondary education by the continuous encouragement and facilitation of pupil participation. New research examines this goal.

Pupils as citizens: participation, responsibility and voice in the transition from primary to secondary school, is a research project, the first of its kind internationally, that has recently been completed at the Moray House School of Education, University of Edinburgh and looked at pupil voice and citizenship in Scottish schools.

The project focused on children’s rights and examined children’s and young people’s involvement in decision-making in schools across the primary-secondary transition.

The primary goals of the project were:

  1. To investigate what is authentic and meaningful participation (voice, leadership, responsibility), from the point of view of pupils;
  2. To compare and contrast pupil’s views on participatory opportunities on either side of primary-secondary transition; and last but not least:
  3. To identify to what extent children view themselves as participating citizens of their respective primary and secondary school communities.

738 children and young people at the end of their primary education and at the beginning of secondary school answered the questionnaire. The findings included that:

  • pupils’ input into decision-making in the classroom is low;
  • there is a noticeable difference between participation in primary and secondary;
  • schools that nurture a participatory ethos have happier students; and, 
  • there is a gender gap in impact and influence on decision-making. 

For more information on this project, read the research briefing, and the final report