I always feel we are very lucky to have such a good School Council at Oxford High School. It is especially rare to find (and many girls probably don’t think about this until the sixth form!) a system that really listens to student feedback and helps make changes in the school community.
By providing a platform where pupils can easily voice their problems, opinions and suggestions and one where the staff and teachers can stay in touch with girls’ views, the school community is always involved in improving their own experiences at OHS.
As Chair, my responsibility lies in overseeing the running of the School Council. This means organising its various subcommittee meetings, leading the main meetings, deciding what major issues to discuss, and ensuring feedback is followed through. It is particularly important to emphasise, I think, that the title says Chair –not Head! – Of the Council. My role is not to lead the council, or to make the important decisions on what should be acted upon; whether feedback we get is needed. Instead I direct the system to work more efficiently and to gain more useful feedback that can be acted upon quickly.
The School Council is ultimately a student body aiming to provide every girl a chance to influence their School and make positive change. I hope what follows will give you an idea of what we have achieved, and what great work it does.
Chair of School Council
The Structure of School Council
Every year group in school has representatives for each of the School Council Subcommittees, usually meaning that each class has at least two reps.
Feedback sheets are provided to all years in the second or third week of term. This allows girls to use form time in the morning to provide feedback and suggestions to their reps which are noted down on the feedback sheets;
Sub-Committee meetings then occur in the following week. The reps from all years then attend respective meetings chaired by prefects in charge of that area. Currently, subcommittees held every half term and the reps in charge are;-
- Community: Rosie Hore
- Facilities: Olivia Elder
- Food: Rozzi Nicholson-Lailey
- Uniform: Nadine Dyar (every other half term)
- Health and Welfare: Esmie Warne
- IT: Annie Trofimova
After these subcommittees are held all feedback is either followed up or put on the Agenda for the main School Council meeting. This occurs once every half-term, and the whole school is welcome to attend. General topics are usually addressed; often suggested by staff who want student feedback, or by pupils who have raised an important point. This is an important meeting as much feedback is discussed by both pupils and staff: the Headmistress, Deputy Head, Head of Academics, and staff members responsible for the different subcommittees attend.
The meeting is recorded and minuted (by me!) and is available to access afterwards.
Whew! Hopefully, that gives you a brief! Overview on how the system works. Each of the reps in addition have given a summary of what their Subcommittee does. Although these are mainly addressed to students (it is a student Council), there is a clear sense of the achievements and the range of issues covered.
Uniform: Nadine Dyar
As the Uniform prefect it is my role to ensure that students – yes, you all! – Opinions on uniform at Oxford High School are heard. Committee meetings are held every half-term and a representative from each year group provides feedback from pupils. This then enables me to talk to the relevant teachers and staff.
Student input allows the school to improve and create a uniform that all OHS girls will want to wear, while continuing to maintain a sense of community. School Council has been invaluable in this respect.
Recently, the school held a survey in which every pupil voted on what their preferred uniform would be, between the current uniform, a more formal number incorporating a straw hat and tie, or no uniform at all. The results indicated that almost the entire school stated that they would rather keep the uniform as it is! Very few of you wanted to have something more formal. Through the school council we have also successfully brought back the option for white shirts in the summer term. So never fear, your voices can be heard! The Uniform sub-committee is present as a way to help that happen.
Facilities: Olivia Elder
This year, the Facilities sub-committee is definitely the place to be! You can’t have failed to notice that the school is undergoing major building works at the moment, and Mrs. Charlton is very keen to get as much student input as possible.
Before the summer, we discussed how to make life as normal as possible during the building work, something that is clearly very important for everyone. It has recently been decided that the Facilities sub-committee will act as a liaison between the rest of the students and Mrs. Charlton: we will therefore go on regular site tours so that we can report on progress on school council meetings.
But it’s not all about the new building works: I’d also love to hear your suggestions about the existing facilities. If there’s anything you think could be updated or improved, let me know: I have regular meetings with Mrs. Charlton to discuss with her what is viable. As a result of your input, she is currently looking into water fountains for the sports changing rooms and more shelving space around the school. What you say honestly does get listened to, so whatever your ideas are, come and use the Facilities sub-committee!
Community: Rosie Hore
The Community sub-committee plays a vital role in the School Council. Reps discuss ways in which the community inside school can be enhanced, and how the school can develop its relationship in the wider community.
For example, charity plays a large part in this sub-committee. We fully support the school’s charity – Friends of Bonou – and we have discussed school-wide fundraising events to raise money and develop inter-year community spirit. A recent decision made by the Community sub-committee resulted in a significant amount of money donated to the Oxfordshire Development Trust.
In this way the school can contribute to the local community by supporting various lesser-well known charities and foundations. It is possible that the Community sub-committee will split into a Community and Charity committee, which will be attended by the form charity reps as well as school council reps. We have also discussed ways to keep the school environment pleasant, including the introduction of a form tidiness rep and ways to deal with lost property; some of you (hopefully only a few!) may have noticed the newly developed lost property system in place this year. As you can see the Community Sub-committee can and will make a difference.
Food: Rozzi Nicholson-Lailey
Few people realise the extent of an OHS girl’s dependence on cheese, or so it would seem from the summer term’s school council feedback. We want cheese on Monday, we want cheese on Tuesday; in fact, we want cheese on every day of the week, and it’s the task of the food sub-committee to make this happen!
As food rep, it’s my job to pass on student feedback to our Head of Catering, Joy, and vice versa. What I find most successful about the school council system at OHS is that it is a dialogue between staff and pupils: the feedback goes both ways, and (often through compromise) we come up with solutions that keep everyone happy. Our most recent success has been the acquisition of a sandwich suggestion box, which students can use to propose new flavours to the canteen. We meet once every half term to discuss any food-related issues, and (very appropriately) cookies are normally consumed.
Health and Welfare: Esmie Warne
Being Health and Welfare school council prefect is really quite a cool role to have. It involves dealing with a very wide range of issues covering all areas of school life. From the title, you can probably guess that we deal with student’s health- covering such issues as vaccination programmes for the new cervical cancer vaccine and the use of antibacterial hand cleanser around school to prevent the spread of bacteria and viruses- very topical at the moment! The health of the school is really important and crucial to everyone’s’ enjoyment and success within the school community.
‘Welfare’ is a topic students are sometimes confused about. What does this involve? In a nutshell, it is the well being of students- trying to make sure students are happy, and feel comfortable and fulfilled in the school environment. It involves such things as making sure students have access to adequate support to deal with any problems they may have. It can also involve ‘buddying’ schemes within the school so that pupils have friendly and long term interaction between year groups; something many people have found very valuable. Another outcome of this focus is the Self Esteem Policy, which has now been in effect for some years.
Health and Welfare is great and vital to the success and enjoyment of students within the school; so please come along to the sub-committee and have your say.
IT: Annie Trofimova
In the ICT sub-committee meetings, ICT representatives from years 7-13 gather fortnightly along with Mr JJ and the ICT prefect. In these meetings we normally discuss the issues that have arisen concerning the school ICT policy. It is in my interests to enhance the ICT policy so it may suit all of the years and students using the ICT facilities. This is why feedback is extremely important and opinions of all years must be voiced.
Since last year, we have introduced the ‘MyPlace’ function, which is effectively an extranet, to be found by typing ‘MyPlace GDST’ into Google, allowing students to access their school documents from home. As most of you know, the Emailing system is also accessible for most of the years.
Although it is a privilege to have a school email address, it is up to the students, and the IT subcommittee to make sure the systems in place are not misused. Improving the ICT facilities through student feedback also acknowledges and develops an understanding that they must be used responsibly according to school rules. Mr JJ and I also look forward to constructing a questionnaire made up of student questions from across the years, in order to allow us to see where the problems lie within the policy, and what could be done. Watch this space!
As IT prefect, I also make myself available to discuss any issues outside the subcommittee meetings. However, most IT participation and feedback is provided in the actual meetings themselves! It is surprising what kind of useful changes students can make; together we have a lot of power.