The last place to look: the place of pupil councils within citizen participation in Scottish schools

Beth Cross*, Moira Hulme, Stephen Mckinney

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

13 Citations (Scopus)


This article critically examines pupil councils as a means of developing pupils’ citizenship participation. It draws on findings across two research projects. The first study is a mixed method study commissioned by Learning and Teaching Scotland (LTS) that reviews the range of participatory activities in Scottish schools and their contribution to Scotland’s major curriculum revision, the Curriculum for Excellence (CFE). The second is a longer ethnographic study examining young people’s experience of participation projects in more detail. The findings lend strength to the argument that pupil councils as a stand-alone approach are not an effective means of citizenship participation. When pupil councils are complemented by other participation activity across spheres of school interaction, young people’s understanding of and interest in participation can be greatly enhanced. The article examines the cross curricular linkages schools are making, the barriers that impede such linkages and the benefits derived from successful coordinated approaches in light of criteria for ‘graduated participation’ developed through decades of work internationally on children’s participation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)628-648
Number of pages21
JournalOxford Review of Education
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 14 Sept 2014


  • citizenship
  • participation
  • curriculum design
  • school governance
  • pupil councils


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