A Thought Piece by Jack Davies 15 January 2019

Over the last three years, North Birmingham Academy has been encouraging students to become key decision makers within the academy.  By reflecting on models of student leadership, and by working closely with Errol Comrie, Assistant Headteacher at The Crest Academy, we developed our very own student leadership team.

A solution-focused approach

A head boy and head girl from each year group are elected to the student leadership team by their heads of year following a variety of application processes, including a student vote. The group play a key role in changes and developments within the academy, and help academy staff to implement actions and initiatives.

Our student leadership team take a solution-focused approach to key issues within the academy, as identified by all stakeholders. Recently, students assisted in redesigning the rewards and sanctions policy, identifying that more focus needed to be placed upon positive behaviour and hard work. As a result, a rewards week was introduced to celebrate the successes of students with the highest number of ‘positives’, awarded by teachers throughout the year.

Additional areas for improvement, including improving punctuality to lessons and reducing litter around the academy grounds, have been successfully tackled by the ideas and actions of the student leadership team.

Developing skills in decision making, communication, strategic thinking and action planning

Post-16 leaders play a key role in the day-to-day running of the academy. They attend both student leadership and senior leadership team meetings, giving leaders the chance to share their thoughts, concerns and ideas from students’ perspectives with senior academy staff. We’ve noticed that this work has helped our students to develop skills in collaborative decision making, communication, strategic thinking and action planning.

Students are also provided with the unique experience of observing key discussions between senior leaders regarding school governance, introducing them to organisational culture and the importance of staff engagement and team working. Such experiences and skills have supported students’ applications to Oxford University; last year, NBA’s head girl successfully gained a place at Keble College, while our current Head Girl also managed to secure an interview at Oxford last term.

Significant improvements in attendance and punctuality

Post-16 leaders also contribute to the appointment of prefects, a team who perform numerous roles within the academy. We’ve seen significant improvements in attendance and punctuality following the introduction of prefect teams. Through role modelling expected behaviours, and by standing at the front doors of the academy at the start of the school day, they are able to identify students who repeatedly attend school late, providing 1:1 mentoring to prevent reoccurrence. Prefects also take on a voluntary role during break time, acting as a point of contact for younger students, setting clear examples of expected behaviours and providing supervision to more vulnerable students.

Additionally, each prefect provides coaching to up to five year seven students; a two-weekly lesson is timetabled to all year seven students where prefects assist students in goal-setting, and support them to work through any issues they may have. This has facilitated a smoother transition from primary to secondary school. It has also improved student confidence in having challenging conversations with their peers.

We’ve been delighted with the positive impact that the student leadership programme has had on both the students involved and the academy as a whole, and we’re excited to see what our young leaders achieve this year.

Jack Davies worked as assistant headteacher at North Birmingham Academy, helping to implement their student leadership programme. This year he took on the role of senior assistant headteacher at nearby E-ACT academy, Shenley Academy, where he is supporting the student leadership team.