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Parliament

Parliament at Woodbury Boston Primary School is a fortnightly meeting of the whole school. Parliament is an expression of the principles of active citizenship whereby each child is invited to be involved in discussions about school issues which affect them.

Participating in parliament teaches students to:

  • Recognise their rights, and the rights of others
  • Voice their opinions, and expect to be heard
  • Respect the opinions of others
  • Express dissent without threat of repercussions from peers or adults
  • Recognise their responsibility to the community to share helpful insights that contribute to peaceful solutions

At parliament, the whole school (students kindy-year six, and all available adults) gather together, sitting in a circle. Everyone being on the same level is deliberate, a way of signifying that everyone has the same status.

Small groups of senior students lead each session. School adults are available to support the parliament facilitators, especially when issues of school policy are raised which may be unfamiliar to the students, or when the issues become particularly delicate. The skills the students have developed over their years of attending parliament mean that they are able to facilitate these conversations with a surprising degree of confidence and sensitivity.

Running a session of parliament helps the students to:

  • Facilitate conversations between peers in an impartial and sensitive manner
  • Develop active listening skills
  • Learn how to conduct peer mediation
  • Refine conflict resolution skills
  • Develop negotiation skills
  • Speak and listen in a group context and develop a strong and clear speaking voice

At parliament, each person present is asked in turn, individually by name, if they have any great things that they would like to celebrate with everyone, or concerns or comments to share with the rest of the community. All comments are addressed to the leadership group. This helps to avoid aggravating situations when a conflict has been raised.

If students have been bullied or have witnessed behaviour by any student which they have felt unable to deal with face-to-face, or if they have felt intimidated or afraid, parliament offers an opportunity to raise these issues in a safe environment.

Addressing issues in the hearing of the whole community takes away the “veil of secrecy” under which many bullying and other undesirable activities can happen. Exposing bullies in this way undermines the practice, and generally makes the playground and school experience happier for the students.

Decisions are made in consultation with the whole parliament, and with everyone’s full knowledge and agreement. Issues are not voted on – rather discussion continues until consensus is reached. Records of these decisions are kept, and everyone is asked to help put the decisions into practice. The school finds that by involving the whole student community in decision-making and implementing, the students feel empowered and demonstrate a high level of responsibility and accountability.

At any time the need arises between the fortnightly parliaments, class parliaments can be called to deal with issues specific to one class. The whole school parliament can also be gathered outside of the normal fortnightly routine if a specific need arises.