New student union plan spearheaded

A GRAMMAR school student is setting up a national union for secondary school pupils to give young people a voice on aspects of education policy.And yesterday the concept of the organisation – called the English Secondary Students Association (ESSA) – was broadly welcomed by members of the education profession.

By Roddy Ashworth

A GRAMMAR school student is setting up a national union for secondary school pupils to give young people a voice on aspects of education policy.

And yesterday the concept of the organisation - called the English Secondary Students Association (ESSA) - was broadly welcomed by members of the education profession.

Rajeeb Dey, 18, who studies in Chelmsford, had the idea of setting up the union after hearing of similar groups abroad.


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Now he has secured £5,000 from the Unlimited Millennium Awards Scheme (UnLTD) to help set up the association which he hopes could be up and running by the end of the year.

“There are plans for a conference in the Autumn with about 100 students to help shape the organisation. I want as many people to have a say as possible.

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“That will decide things such as how the membership system will work - whether it is on an individual or school by school basis,” said Rajeeb, who is currently sitting his A Level exams at the King Edward VI Grammar School (KEGS).

“The aim of ESSA is to promote students' views on education. In the media, you always hear the views of teachers, parents and governors but you never hear what students - the most important people in education - think as well.

“At the moment there are issues such as exam paper scandals and random drug testing of students being discussed.

“There are also cases like the school which sent a student home from an exam for wearing the wrong shade of dark trousers.

“I also think it is important that pupils are consulted about whether changes in education policy are good ideas or not.”

Yesterday Jerry Glazier, general secretary of the Essex Division of the National Union of Teachers - said he felt greater student participation was in principle a good one.

“There is a growing need to ensure young people are aware of their rights and responsibilities and if this helps get them included, as opposed to feeling excluded, with democratic and properly structured processes it must be good for them, good for education and good for the country.

“Lots of schools now have proper forums for pupils, such as school councils and representation on governing bodies, which I have always thought is a good thing.”

And Terry Creissen, headteacher of the Colne Community School in Brightlingsea, said he also thought the idea a good one as long as it was managed properly.

“I think it has the potential to be a good thing. The views of the students are important - and should be important - in the way schools are run.

“We have students on our governing body. We also have a school council. We are also looking at a secure web chat room for pupils only so they can discuss things.

“If you don't listen to students' ideas you are ignoring your clients. We are here to help them get the best opportunities in education they can.

“There is a big Government agenda in personalising learning, so giving children more say is important to us.”

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