A prudent Participatory Budgeting programme in schools can affect the civic engagement and financial success of individuals, businesses and, by extension, the state itself and may vastly improve the life quality for the generations of tomorrow. But, how could such a programme even be feasible for schools today?
[5 minutes to read]
Since 2014, the Scottish Government has invested over £4.7 million in Participatory Budgeting (PB). For all who stand to be affected by an analogous programme to UK schools (and that would include you), understanding the concept and its potential impact on society and education is crucial. This new series of articles serves as an introduction to some of the topics investigated in our exploratory co-design workshop Empowering KS2-5 learners through Participatory Budgeting on 20 May in Birmingham:
- What is Participatory Budgeting (PB)?
- Is PB in schools relevant to me?
- Who will be involved in PB in schools?
- What does PB mean for schools and the 2019 inspection framework?
- What can go wrong?
- The VNET conference narrative
- The Co-Creative conversation
What is Participatory Budgeting?
Simply put, Participatory Budgeting (PB) enables a group of stakeholders, e.g. a local community, to decide on the issues that matter to them. A pot of money is allocated for PB, stakeholders put forward their own ideas for how the money should be spent, and vote on them. It is more than asking people “what they think.” It’s a new form of democracy that urges engagement, fosters responsibility and brings fresh perspectives. And, Participatory Budgeting has been extensively tried and tested in a range of scenarios globally over the past thirty years, including the United Kingdom. (Links to references are found in the original Eventbrite invitation here – click “Details” in right top corner.)
In schools, the pot of money could be as little as £200 and come from a range of sources, such as Pupil Premium funds, school budget allocated by governors to support school vision, grants from local businesses, council, charities, or even crowdfunding initiatives. The ideas would be generated and voted for by the main stakeholders within the school – the students themselves. The caucus could be extended to include staff, parents, council members, business leaders, local or national politicians, etc.
Is PB in schools relevant to me?
Whatever is happening in schools today will affect the lives of all of us tomorrow.
Participatory Budgeting inculcates responsibility and agency in young people which facilitate social mobility which in turn has a positive effect on mental and physical health, including reduction of the likelihood of children turning to violent crime, thus giving the next generation even better life chances. And PB has the potential to involve the entire community in educating its children, rather than shifting all responsibility to a handful of teachers. Further to this, social action is a powerful driver for student engagement in low-attainment areas, as exemplified by Miss Hollie Jones’ experiences.
“Through being involved in this participatory budgeting programme we have gained social skills, money management, budgeting, communication skills and interview skills.”– Carly, YoMo volunteer, A right to a voice: participatory budgeting and children’s rights, December 2018. (Accessed Mar 1, 2019).
PB demonstrably affects democratic engagement and financial success of individuals, businesses and by extension, the state itself. A PB programme done well will change how businesses and government are run in 20 years time, who has power, how power is shared and how decisions are made. The issues of distributed knowledge, flat power-structures and agency are now high priority in the biggest corporations in the world as part of their Knowledge Management strategies. To conclude, let us flip the question: Do you think a Participatory Budgeting programme in schools is relevant to you?
Who will be involved in PB in schools?
In the first instance, we suggest that PB should involve pupils and students in keystage 2, 3, 4, and 5 and their parents/carers, teachers and senior leadership teams. Then, at their behest, relevant parties outside the immediate school orbit would be invited to participate. This would include further and higher education providers; local businesses; “community” organisations (e.g. clubs, museums, social action groups, charities, grass roots movements); police; health care; school consultancies; and training providers, to name a few.
When viewed purely as organisations with obligations and objectives, schools, Multi-Academy Trusts, local authority and teams in councils dealing with prevention, communities & migration also figure prominently.
Ofsted, in its regulatory and quality improvement role would need to understand how PB in schools improves educational attainment, and would need to support the development for schools to feel confident they are fully in line with the expectations set out in the new framework. [Update: read about my conversation with Ofted’s National Director Sean Harford here.]
What does PB mean for schools and the 2019 inspection framework?
Participatory Budgeting cannot, by definition, take place in neat rows in the classroom. Some of the educational components we will therefore need to consider are 1) approaches such as Project-Based, Enquiry-Based, Cooperative, and Co-Creative Learning and 2) localised and/or community-generated curriculum.
These two components would correspond to the first of the three elements of the new Ofsted framework, Implementation and Intent respectively. That leaves the third element of Impact – the crucial Ofsted inspections and national testing systems which remains the (perceived?) potential bane of any such non-linear approaches to teaching.
For a profound insight into the historic connection between approaches to teaching and learning and the curriculum, I highly recommend Martin Robinson’s 21st Century Trivium. (More of Martin in Redesigning schooling; Quotes from National Teacher Enquiry Network).
What can go wrong?
While academics in universities and social justice advocates might be smiling and nodding their way through the previous section, teachers and members of senior leadership were more likely to be reaching for their stash of cyanide pills. Because to many, if not most, experimenting with any non-linear approach in school is tantamount to organisational (and, potentially, career) suicide.
For outsiders, it is important at this point to understand the long-standing fault line running through the education system. It is defined by two armed camps, which we will, for want of better words, term Traditional and Progressive.
At the risk of brevity leading to satire, the Traditionals stand for ordered classrooms, teacher authority, student discipline, and direct instruction of very specific knowledge and skills. Vocal proponents include Donald Clark in academia and Andrew Old in the blogosphere. A good introduction to their position is Robert Peal’s book Progressively Worse – the burden of bad ideas in school, previously reviewed. Their detractors stamp them as reactionary conservatives. A typical scheme would be the pervasive Read-Write-Inc. by Ruth Miskin.
“It is dull at ditchwater … but it is fab that those who only know a few GPCs can read a whole book by themselves.”
caterpillartobutterfly, What do people think of the Ruth Miskin approach to Literacy? (Read write inc), TES online forum, Sep 2, 2016 (Accessed Feb 18, 2019).
In opposition stand the Progressives. They advocate pupil agency and empowerment, self-directed learning and the connection between schooling and social action. Their well-known proponents include Professor Mitra and Sir Ken Robinson. Emblematic schemes would include restorative justice. Their detractors stamp them as left-wing softies and ideologues, who make a mess of teachers’ lives. A quick introduction to the progressive argument is provided in Sir Ken Robinson’s RSA animate Changing Education Paradigms).
A Traditional-Progressive Case Study featuring
In fact, of course, arguments from both camps are highly nuanced and protagonists cover a wide spectrum with more overlap than each group might initially realise.
Jump forward to Participatory Budgeting in Schools#3: First baby-steps for the outcomes of the workshop, or continue reading for a discussion on a much needed new approach to conversation in the complex realm of the education sector:
The VNET conference narrative
The bottom line is that both camps want what is best for our children and both believe that the other camp does not provide that. What remains so thought-provoking to me about last month’s VNET conference was that it signalled a convergence of these opposing camps and their ideas: The first speaker was Prof Muijs who gave the ultimate example of one-way, authoritative input from Ofsted. From this base launchpad, presentations ascended through the liminal space drawn up by Rob Campbell via Daniel Sobel and Clare Fletcher (Title of Clare’s talk: “Crazy Cross-Curricular or Intelligent Interdisciplinary”) and then climaxed with the success stories of John Baumber of Kunskapsskolan and Marcello Staricoff (JONK), both living examples that not all enquiry-based student-driven learning equals obnoxious children and poor outcomes. Finally, to land us all safely, David Mitchell of Quadblogging combined student agency with tight teacher control (Year 6s blogging to 7,7 billion people might raise certain safeguarding issues). I only wished that speakers and delegates had had an opportunity to interact and process the input together. Increasing knowledge production of such conferences is another promising strands of my parallel development of Co-Creative Conversation.
I have written in some detail about the early stages of the conference and apologise to all who have not been given their due there and in this too-brief summary of its final chapter. In summary, teaching and educational leadership take place in a liminal space between reality and ideals and between past and future that will never be overcome by and final, hard solution, neither from left nor right.
I will be presenting workshops for both primary and secondary on Quality First Teaching in the 2019 framework through Cooperative Learning at the VNET Summer conference. Bookings open. Follow on Twitter for details.
The Co-Creative Conversation
Regular readers of cooperativelearning.works will be aware of my increasing focus on the concept of Co-Creative Learning. Inspired by my recent encounters with business leaders (and, notably, experiencing David Gurteen at his Knowledge Cafe in London with author Hilary Gallo) I have given a great deal of thought as to how Cooperative Learning can be applied to adults struggling to make sense and use of an overload of shared complex knowledge.
Although my first article Consultation or Conversation? was triggered by my concerns over Chartered College of Teaching’s new CPD Quality Assurance project, these thoughts have been with me since my young days in IT & advertising. In that sense, the workshop on 20 May is as much trial by fire for the concept of Co-Creative Conversation as an acid test for Participatory Budgeting in schools.
Shared Future and I are not hosting “Empowering KS2-5 learners through Participatory Budgeting” to present stakeholders with the end of all problems in school and in the world. Rather, we are presenting Participatory Budgeting for all stakeholders to jointly assess its value as a way forward and, if it has value, what would be a safe road to travel for everyone involved?
Without a co-creative conversation, we won’t know.
So, if theses ideas have struck a chord with you, follow developments on Twitter or join the mailing list for updates. You are also welcome to contact me directly by email.
Overview of all articles on Participatory Budgeting in Schools
- In a Word: Co-Creative Conversation explained concisely
- Thoughts on CPD accreditation #1; Consultation or Conversation?
- Thoughts on CPD accreditation #2; Missing the (quality) mark
- Ofsted & The Co-Creative conversation
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