Leicester City Council’s Youth Engagement project was a year-long innovative programme of research which involved 400 young people (11-19 years old).
The Youth Engagement Project was designed to ensure that the voice, opinions and views of young people are included in the development of Leicester City Council’s Building Schools for the Future Programme.
The project focussed on identifying young people’s priorities as they relate to the school environment. Their top 10 priorities were:
1. More indoor social spaces
2. Better designed library spaces
3. Comfortable chairs
4. Well-designed interiors – especially use of colour
5. More vegetable `patches/allotments
6. Sustainable features – including use of biofuels and recycling programmes
7. Nicer toilets
8. Larger dining room spaces –flexible seating arrangements and more food choice
9. Flexible classroom spaces
10. Greater variety in teaching methods
Learners were also asked to think about their priorities as they related to technology.
Young people told us their top 10 learning technology priorities are:
1. Faster computers
Young people’s number one learning technology priority is for consistently fast, reliable computers and network access. They told us slow computers make them feel frustrated, waste class time and hold up learning. Problems with computers running programmes or connecting to the internet slowly also make teachers less likely to want to use them with learners within lessons.
2. More creative uses of technology for learning
Even the most interesting uses of technology became boring if teachers use them in the same way all the time. Students told us that their experience of technology used to support learning was too frequently the same – a teacher delivering a Power Point presentation to the class, or being taken through tasks as a whole class on a fixed computer.
3. More student centred and student led use of technology
Young People talked to us about the ways in which they work together on social networking services, particularly for revision and homework. They want more opportunities to use technology to support their peers and potentially other learners – younger pupils as well as teachers, parents, carers and governors.
Students want to be supported in using online platforms and sites to develop their school councils and other student organised initiatives such as internet radio shows, online magazines and blog sites.
4. More flexible use/internet access – in schools, the city centre, and in local communities
Students want to be able to use technology and connect to the school network and internet from anywhere in their school. They tell us they do not like only being able to use computers in ICT suites. They want to see greater use of mobile devices – laptops, netbooks, tablets and phones.
5. Laptop borrowing schemes for home use
Young people told us that going online and working collaboratively with their friends via their mobiles and computers was really helpful, and they did not think it was fair that some young people didn’t have good access so could not develop the skills to use technology effectively. They understand that not every family can afford computers and internet access, and that when money was very tight these would not be seen as priorities.
They also say that computer and internet access at home is really important to them to research and complete homework, and to talk to other people about lessons and exams.
6. More collaboration with young people in other schools and countries
Young people told us about their positive experience of talking to students online from other countries, and learning about other cultures and ways of thinking about the world.
7. Access to local and national decision makers via social media and social networking sites
Young people told us they want more opportunities to have a say in how decisions are made in schools, across the city and at national level. They would like to be able to use social media sites to talk about the issues that concern them with decision makers.
8. ‘Young people only’ space in the city centre with computers and internet access
Young people would like a space that they can meet friends and drop in to use a range of technologies, learn new skills and work on either their school work or their own interests. They would like access to support but space to do things in their own time and at their own pace.
9. Teachers who can help them use social media and social networking services and sites more effectively
Nearly all of the young people we talked to have social networking profiles and use social networks or social media sites. Many of them have friends who have been bullied online, or have been bullied themselves. Young people recognise that technology can be used in negative ways and would like support in dealing with online bullying. They would like more information and support in managing their online privacy.
10. A say in school filtering and blocking policies
Students tell us that they would like to see fewer restrictions on accessing sites in their schools. They feel that many sites that would be useful for learning are currently blocked. They also want to be able to access games and social media sites in break times.
The full report lists and expands on young people’s top 15 priorities for the school environment, and young people’s top 10 learning technology priorities: