Student participation in school governance and operation.30/10/2017
Jordi Collado Llombart. Director of the Garbí Pere Vergés, Badalona.
The Escola Garbí Pere Vergés in Badalona is a subsidised, secular, open and plural school with 870 students from year 3 infant to year 2 baccalaureate, with two streams.
It forms part of the Fundació Escoles Garbí [Garbi Schools Foundation] and together with its sister school, was founded by pedagogue Pere Vergés, both therefore having descended from the old Escola del Mar and the Escola Nova movement.
At the Fundació Escoles Garbí we educate new generations to be proactive citizens, capable of transforming the society in which they live, in a just, supportive and sustainable environment.
Our students, who are constantly accompanied by educators who act as role models and provide individual attention, learn how to think, feel, love and act using an experiential and value-based learning approach, which enables them to lead and develop their life ambitions, from 3 to 18 years of age.
The Escuela Garbí Pere Vergés is organised like an ideal city, where everyone has rights and obligations. The city acts as an engine and driver of coexistence based on respect, freedom and responsibility.
Our educational goal is to enable our students to act as citizens aware of the world in which they live, so they can assess its beauty and act out of respect for society and the environment, and be happy and competent citizens.
Freedom, responsibility and respect are our fundamental values, and permeate everything we do. Students have the freedom to choose, to find their own path, and to focus their life how they want. But must do so in a responsible and measured fashion, aware of both their strengths and their weaknesses, and focussed on achieving the life ambition they have set themselves through work and dedication. And always based on respect for others, themselves and the world that surrounds them.
To achieve such objectives we are convinced that the only way is to provide our students with the time and the space to implement and practice the values and attitudes that will make them responsible citizens. Which is why we have organised the school to be model a city, where our students can undertake civic activities such as participation, collaboration, service and government.
We offer them opportunities to govern and decide, through which they learn about the responsibility that goes with decision-making. And where they are respected for performing a public function, and learn to respect others for doing likewise. They understand that society, the school, operates thanks to everyone contributing to the common good. All of which they practice and experience, because values can’t be taught, they must learnt through day-to-day experience, gaining in moral autonomy.
To implement all of this, the school is organised educationally around certain activities, which we refer to as Social Life. Activities for the daily operation of our city-school, whereby students can transition from personal to civic and social responsibility. These are: houses, posts, committees, service-learning and voluntary work.
Houses – Personal effort for the collective benefit.
Every student, from year 4 infant school chooses to belong to one of three houses (white, green or blue). All students in a specific house belong to a sort of team, group, party or family. Division into houses is used to organise groups, teams, collaborative work, and certain competitions. Students learn that their work contributes to the success of their house, and also the general running of the school. Houses are used for sports, organising races between competing houses, in which all students in a particular house run relays to achieve victory, regardless of their age. When a student does a good job they are rewarded with points or tenths of a point. The house that wins the most points gets to participate the most in the school’s governance, by forming part of the Consell General [General Council].
Roles – Leadership responsibility
Students are given roles in class. From the youngest students at the age of 3, whose responsibility is to say good day when their name is read out on the register, to older children, who act as mediators or IT managers, through gardeners, librarians, chroniclers, and those that are responsible for tidiness and hygiene, or for chess. There are functional posts such as responsibility for tidiness or gardening, and government and representation posts, such as class reps. or heads of house. Most posts alternate, except representation and government posts, which are chosen by universal suffrage. All students occupying a post experience the responsibility that comes with governing, the respect that others have for the post, and collaboration, aware that the tables could soon be turned. The same posts from different classes hold joint meetings: weekly work meetings to detect needs and plan joint action lead by a general coordinator. All get to exercise the freedom to govern, with the responsibility and respect that comes with it.
Committees – Participation in government
There are four governing bodies comprised of students at the school. The Consell General [General Council], the Consell Auxiliar [Sub-council], the Consell de Secundària [Secondary Council] and the Caps Generals de Color [General Heads of house]. Each council meets weekly with the management for their year or with general management with executive and legislative functions.
The Consell General [General Council] and the Consell Auxiliar [Sub-council] are comprised of primary class coordinators or heads, the General Council from year six and the Sub-council from year three, and they are constituted every five or six weeks. The librarians are represented by the Head Librarian, the gardeners by the Head Gardener, etc. Occupants are selected according to the best score achieved in the period prior to the renewal. Their main role is to lead and coordinate the work of all primary roles.
The Consell de Secundaria [Secondary Council] and the Caps Generals de Color [General Heads of House], are two bodies in which representatives from the different secondary and primary houses meet respectively, and are constituted at the start of each course. Representatives are selected by universal suffrage amongst students in the same house. For which an election campaign is organised, elections are held and there is accountability at the end of the administration. Such councils play a representative role within the institution, and have legislative and executive powers.
Time for Social Life: Service-learning and voluntary work
We spend one hour per week per group at the school on service-learning activities. Students participate in the kitchen, at reception, with maintenance, gardening, green school activities, with older students also helping with infant classes, or preparing laboratory activities for primary courses. The concept is simple: you provide a service to the school community and you learn a skill in the process.
Secondary students also conduct activities outside the school, with some working out of school hours as volunteers. Activities are conducted at retirement homes, special education centres and social programs, charity campaigns, etc. Some students provide learning support for children that have been socially excluded, whilst others participate in animal protection activities, in the afternoons or at weekends.
All of these activities are assessable, and are reflected in the assessment reports provided to families. There is not enough space here to discuss our 100% competency based assessment process, which will be the subject of another article.
In short, the objective of the entire organisation is to provide our students with life skills. To give them tools, abilities and experiences that we are convinced will be equally or more useful than curricular knowledge in their personal and professional futures. To produce free, happy and competent citizens, with a civic, participatory and social conscience.