Royal High’s pupils help to vet teachers

Depute rector Paul Chambers with Royal High's Pupil Voice panel. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
Depute rector Paul Chambers with Royal High's Pupil Voice panel. Picture: Phil Wilkinson
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PUPILS are taking part in the interview process and helping select new school staff as part of a radical project to give youngsters a greater say in the way a school is run.

The grillings are part of a wider step to boost pupil influence at the Royal High, giving youngsters a greater say over how they are educated.

Already they have helped select a new depute rector.

Seven youngsters quizzed three candidates in half-hour slots for the post – before ­current incumbent Paul Chambers was offered the job.

The teacher – who described the experience as “enjoyable” – was asked by the pupil panel to explain why he wanted to be depute, what he would have changed about his own education and how he helps youngsters who are struggling at school.

Pupil interviewers, taken from a range of year groups, fed their views on candidates back to school bosses before a final selection was made by the main interview panel last year.

The grilling was arranged as part of Royal High’s innovative Pupil Voice pilot, which aims to extend the influence of youngsters beyond low-level issues such as litter and the state of school toilets and into key management areas including course content and staffing.

Mr Chambers said: “The pupils were kind to me and didn’t ask anything too tricky – the question that stands out was one about my own school experience. They wanted to know what I would have changed about that.”

Royal High leaders said “perceptive” pupil comments on each of the candidates played a key part in the selection process and that they would have to think carefully about employing an individual if youngsters fail to give the thumbs-up.

Children have also wasted little time in making their views known on the overall content of classes and say they would like to see far more teaching in practical, post-school “survival” skills such as managing and saving money. Mr Chambers said Pupil Voice would be crucial in preparing youngsters for the real world.

“A large number of our kids leave school with good qualifications but are not ready for the move into where they see themselves in terms of employment,” he said. “It’s about bridging that gap – making sure they have strong academic achievements but also real links with different career paths.”

Royal High rector Jane Frith said: “The feedback to the main panel from pupils was very perceptive and useful – it just gave us another insight into the individuals we were interviewing. It was quite a long, drawn-out process but very worthwhile and we would definitely do it again.”

Education bosses said boosting the say of pupils over their own learning was a key part of improving Capital schools.

Councillor Paul Godzik, education leader, said: “Who better to give their views on how to make schools better learning environments than the pupils themselves?”

Getting to know the candidate

SEVEN Royal High pupils – four from S6 and one each from S1, S2 and S3 – interviewed current teacher Paul Chambers and two other candidates as part of the formal selection process for the post of depute rector last year.

Panel members said it was crucially important to develop a sense of how their new leader would relate to children at the school and that Pupil Voice had left them feeling much more involved in decision-making.

S2 pupil Sarah Harris said: “It was all about getting to know the teacher and how he interacts with pupils.”

Fellow S2 Catherine Bough said: “It’s important because we get to say which things are working in the school and what could be improved.”