Joint ABN/SSEN Newsletter, October 2004 Anti-Bullying Network
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Betney and
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Democracy in Schools

The centrepiece of this publication is an article by Dr Ben Levin of the University of Manitoba, which provides a framework for understanding the facets of democracy in education. He reminds us that neither democracy nor education, however desirable they might be, is an easy process.

Children from St Michael's Primary School, DumfriesChallenging questions prompted by other articles include:

  • How can pupils with support needs (including those arising from learning disabilities and social, emotional and behaviour difficulties) be more involved in the communal decision making process as well as in decisions about their own needs?
  • What can be done to encourage adults, such as playground and classroom assistants who are perceived as being ‘lower down’ the school hierarchy, to believe that their views matter?
  • How can we ensure that the welfare of minorities (including those that are easily identifiable, such as some ethnic minorities and those less visible, such as the victims of bullying) is not subordinated to the “democratic” will of the majority?
  • Do teachers model democratic processes in their relationships with colleagues, in their dealings with parents and in the way they teach pupils?

Perhaps the most challenging question of all is: are headteachers and school managers ready to answer the criticisms of policy and practice that the promise of democracy might unleash? As Dr Levin says, “one cannot be committed to democracy and expect to retain full control of everything”. Schools have a vital role in preparing young people to be active participants in a democratic society. A prerequisite for the achievement of this aim is that all members of a school community should be able to participate in meaningful decision making, so that the benefits of democracy are not just taught but also experienced.

Andrew Mellor
SSEN & ABN Manager

special newsletterAbout this publication
This special newsletter, jointly published by the Scottish Schools Ethos Network and the Anti-Bullying Network, is intended to facilitate discussions about the nature of democracy in schooling. Such discussions should involve all members of a school community – although this publication is intended for an adult audience. We hope that young people will be able to take part in such discussions as part of their normal class work, in pupil councils and through local and national organisations, such as Dialogue Youth. We further hope that they will be allowed to make real decisions about matters that are of real concern to them. This newsletter may be reproduced for non-commercial use in schools and other educational establishments in Scotland providing the Anti-Bullying and Scottish Schools Ethos Networks are credited.

Anti-Bullying Network, 0131 651 6100. Scottish Schools Ethos Network, 0131 651 651. Both based at Moray House School of Education, The University of Edinburgh, Holyrood Road, Edinburgh EH8 8AQ.