The History of The Council of Portsmouth Students (CoPS)
Student Voice and Participation has been a formal part of the Culture of Education in Portsmouth since the Portsmouth Learning Community Project ran in partnership with Sussex University between 2002 and 2007. There were three elements of that project: School to School Learning, Assessment for Learning, and the Student Voice and Participation. In the Student Voice and Participation element, students from all secondary, primary and special schools were engaged on many levels within their schools and in the wider community; projects included: Students as Researchers, Students as Partners in Curriculum Development, and Students as Associate Members of Governing Bodies, as well as encouraging all students to become active participants in school councils.
In the spirit of the Learning Community, the Council of Portsmouth Students (CoPS) was set up following on from the first Student Voice Day in 2003 when secondary school students came together to share ideas on how they could make their schools better. They felt it would be valuable to have a cross city student council where students from different schools could meet regularly to discuss ideas of common interest and concern, and take action together. CoPS is primarily a forum for sharing their experiences of education matters and as a way of offering solutions to any concerns that they identified. Ideas and solutions were often identified from within the Learning Community schools network; examples include: anti-bullying strategies, the development of student radio, student feedback to teachers on lessons, and student involvement in teacher and head teacher interviews. Many of these improvement ideas have become part of the landscape of schools locally and nationally. At the time, the local authority also had the resources to develop a Primary Council of Portsmouth Students (PCoPS) and replicate a significant amount of Student Voice activity in Primary Schools – most significantly in the area of Assessment for Learning.
Members of CoPS and the Student Voice Alumni were so well established that they were able to use the funding cuts in 2011 as an opportunity to develop a social enterprise project to ensure the continuation of CoPS and to develop further opportunities for young people to engage and develop their own enterprise initiatives.
Unloc continues this work with all schools in Portsmouth in partnership with school leadership teams to ensure that the foundations of participation that they learned and experienced through school councils, assessment for learning and CoPS remains in place for future generations of Portsmouth Students.