Students having a discussion

 

The Phoenix Education Trust is a charity founded in 2000 by Lord Young of Dartington to encourage the renaissance of the ideals of the recently closed Dartington Hall School. Under Derry Hannam’s guidance, the Trust helped to establish ESSA, the English Secondary Students Association which has since developed into StudentVoice (www.studentvoice.co.uk).

 

The Trust has developed its activities over the years. Its current objectives are to support schools which:

  • give all members of the school a genuine say in decision-making
  • create a culture of respecting differences and promoting tolerance which enables the community to work collaboratively and engage in collective decision-making
  • believe that sound learning and responsible behaviour are rooted in equality and respect, in and outside the classroom
  • allow students to follow their own interests and learn because they wish to
  • and enable students to make choices that have a real impact on their everyday lives.

 

As the chair of the Trust says in the Introduction to the Phoenix Annual Report, having a vote is not the same as having a voice.

In the last year, the Trust has been providing training for young people in three different projects in which students and teachers get to know each other in new ways: Democratic Journeys, Hidden Leaders and Stepping Forward. All three programmes support students to have a greater influence in decision-making and campaign to make positive changes that benefit the whole school community. The programmes are tailored for schools and colleges in different parts of the country.

These are some of the responses from the students:

“We couldn’t wait for the next day, it’s just the first and second. We couldn’t wait for the third. We didn’t want it to end today so we just kept trying to make it last.”
“This is the closest we’ve ever got to changing anything about our life.”
“This will make a difference to the rest of our lives and hopefully to other schools too.”

It was not only the students who were impressed. One of the teachers involved said, “They really seem to listen to each other, and me, now. That was always a problem before. The thing I really noticed is empathy, if that’s what you can call it, like when they take other people’s views on board, they don’t just dismiss things.”

An even more enthusiastic teacher simply said, “I love it, I love it, I love it … I love it.”

Another project involves fostering networks of those who think differently about education. From April 6th – 8th 2018, the Trust will be co-hosting a festival at Summerhill, Leiston, which will bring people together to learn about innovative and radical approaches, make new connections and find ways of collaborating to accelerate the movement towards democratic education.

To connect with other people around the country interested in these ideas, you can join the directory, at www.democraticeducation.co.uk.
These are only some aspects of the work of the Phoenix Education Trust. For more information go to www.phoenixeducation.co.uk.

 

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