Children’s Voice

Children’s right to be heard and to have their views taken seriously was established through Article 12 of the United Nations Convention of the Rights of the Child (UNCRC 1989), but all too often children feel unable to voice their experiences, their feelings and what matters most to them.

Multiple factors can mask a child’s voice and capacity to be heard and this can range from fear of not being listened to, lack of opportunity to talk about their lives and experiences, compliance within adult expectation and boundaries, lack of confidence or belief in themselves or unconscious or uncomfortable feelings due to adverse childhood experiences.

With the national focus on mental health and wellbeing and the promotion of mentally healthy schools, there is recognition of the need for whole school cultures, policy and practice that supports and promotes positive mental health and the recognition of pupil voice is a core element of PHE’s document ‘Promoting children and young people’s mental health and wellbeing.‘²

Childrens Voice

“Pupil voice in schools means a whole-school commitment to listening to the views, wishes and experiences of all children and young people. It means placing value on what children and young people tell school staff about their experiences.”¹

Yet, despite awareness and recognition of the importance of children’s voice, there is still limited time or opportunity for children to share their experiences and to feel heard and understood due to curriculum pressures and the ‘busy-ness’ of school, but it is evident that pupil voice and feeling heard has multiple benefits for school life.

“Schools with a strong commitment to pupil voice have reported many positive outcomes. These include a reduction in exclusions, better behaviour, better relationships across the whole-school community, and improving attainment and attendance.”¹

For all children, but particularly those living with adversity or mental health needs, the importance of feeling heard, listened to and understood is paramount to their wellbeing. Having opportunities where they feel safe, validated and are met with empathy, compassion and care are vital for their emotional wellbeing, their resilience and the capacity to regulate emotions.

Helping children to talk about and express their experiences and what is happening in their lives is central to the whole Hamish & Milo approach which offers a comprehensive emotions curriculum and SEMH intervention programme for primary-aged children. It provides an explicit framework to enhance PSHE delivery through ten emotion themes; friendship, resilience, anxiety, diversity, angry feelings, change, conflict, loss, sadness and self-esteem.

With detailed session plans, impact measurement tools, wellbeing journals, parent leaflets, sock puppet kits and guidance, the aim is to ensure the development of emotional literacy skills and resilience. Children’s voice is central, with time to share experiences, develop empathy and friendships in a small group environment of safety, value and belonging.

Rowanfield Infant School Hamish & Milo Wellbeing Journal

Children's Wellbeing Journals

Children and young people need to be provided with meaningful opportunities to share their experiences, views and hopes.

They “need to know that it is safe and that it is important for them to express their view... They need to know that what they say is valued and will be listened to and considered.¹

All children have the right to feel safe, heard and valued and it is important to create regular opportunities for children to share their ideas, thoughts and aspirations – both at whole school level and on a personal level.

Some ideas and suggestions:

  • Wellbeing ambassadors who listen to voices of their peers, share ideas through a forum approach and develop plans or actions to take forward.

  • Suggestions boxes that children can write ideas, thoughts or comments about things happening in school.

  • Worry boxes or place where children can write something they wish an adult to know and can be a way of reaching out or asking for support.

  • Small group discussion groups and idea sharing. This can be facilitated as small group intervention or set up as a forum group about a particular topic that children can share ideas about.

  • Small group intervention programmes to offer an emotions curriculum or opportunities to develop emotional literacy through key emotion themes, such as Hamish & Milo. One of the key factors of this type of intervention is in creating safe group environments to talk about feelings and experiences and to enable children to experience the power of not feeling alone with their feelings or experiences. Knowing others experience similar things can help them to feel understood and supported.

  • Questionnaires and reviews about their experiences in school, their learning, wellbeing or experience in an intervention group.

Capturing children’s voice is an important part of measuring the outcome of the Hamish & Milo wellbeing intervention and through our child voice questionnaire, we hope to see the impact, and how the group has supported them or changed outcomes from the child’s perspective. Much of this is listened to throughout the group experience but the new questionnaire is a resource to support in capturing children’s experience.

Enabling children’s voice has multiple benefits in terms of supporting children to develop a sense of agency and empowerment about the choices they make in their lives and supports the fundamental right to feel heard and have their thoughts, ideas and experiences taken seriously. It supports the development of trust in feeling valued and heard and that they have something to contribute and it promotes inclusivity and recognition of the importance of different viewpoints, empathy for other’s beliefs and opinions.

Giving children a voice and opportunities to feel heard and valued is essential in creating wellbeing cultures in our schools, as well as being vital for mental health, relationships and social and emotional development. It is therefore essential to provide a range of opportunities and ways for children to feel listened too and heard as they learn about the world and advocate their own futures.

Hamish & Milo Childrens Voice Questionnaire
Childrens Voice Hamish & Milo Resource

“At an individual level, benefits include helping students to gain belief in their own capabilities, including building their knowledge and skills to make healthy choices and developing their independence. Collectively, students benefit through having opportunities to influence decisions, to express their views and to develop strong social networks.” ²

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