Asked about ‘voice’ in schools, you may well think about Student Councils, student governors, or similar groups with different names (student ambassadors, champions, researchers, committees, Parliaments…). These are often organised as forms of representative democracy – students are elected, or selected, or volunteer; they are meant to stand in for a bigger whole, to speak for others; they work on issues of concern to the school (from policies, to the environment, facilities, communication, to how it is run, to teaching and learning); and they are often ‘official’ or visible to (at least some) adults and students in the school.
Or, you might think about forms of ‘consultation’, such as surveys or focus groups with classes, year groups or the whole school, where young people’s views on aspects of educational provision are sought, often with a promise to act on feedback to improve services (“you said …we did”).
All these are established and valuable ways of thinking about youth participation and active citizenship. Article 12 of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child gives children a right to express their views and to have them taken seriously, and it underpins other participation rights in the Convention. Research identifies benefits of this work but also points to inequalities of access to participation, structured by socio-economic, gender, racial and other differences.