Student voice in education

by Sara Bragg

14 Dec 2021
Journal of the British Academy
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Number of pages
12 (pp. 41-51)

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Abstract: A diverse and contested range of practices referred to as ‘student voice’ have long flourished in many educational contexts, and are regularly re-discovered by new generations of teachers. Currently the fortunes of student voice in England may appear to be waning, particularly compared to their waxing elsewhere and under the 1997-2010 New Labour government. This article argues that even evidencing the value of student voice (whether in instrumental, pragmatic, intrinsic, moral, or democratic terms) is unlikely to convince those who discredit it. Instead, we should change the conversation about voice to go beyond the liberal and individualistic rights-based model underpinning many accounts: we need to develop more nuanced understandings of social contexts, power, the school as an institution, and of voice as a practice rather than the property of an individuated subject. Paying greater attention to the ‘vital relationality’ between subjects, infrastructures, the material and the affective, can help us understand the differences that matter in student voice. We may thereby build socialities that ‘stay with the trouble’ of voice, listen in ways that open us to the other, and create more liveable schools.

Keywords: Student/pupil voice, school, children’s rights, enactment, social practice, relationality.

Article posted to Journal of the British Academy, volume 8, supplementary issue 4 (Multidisciplinary perspectives on the child’s voice in public policy).

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