skip to content

Capturing the voice of the child

Participation develops children and young people’s ownership of learning and helps improve motivation, level of engagement, resilience and self-esteem.

Children and young people have a right to be heard. They have a right to be involved in shaping the services that support them and their community.

When children and young people have their say in any plans, reports, or reviews about them, this helps practitioners to understand how they are feeling, their strengths, what they find hard, and how we can help things to improve.

Why do we capture the voice of the child?

Listening to and consulting with a child or young person  or young person benefits everyone.

The voice of the child or young person  or young person is also enshrined in law; SEND Code of Practice 2015, United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child or young person.

Seeking, listening to and responding to the voice of the child or young person is essential to safeguarding and promoting the welfare of all child or young person and young people.

Seeking and acting upon pupil voice is best practice and is intrinsic to the graduated approach.

Benefits include:

  • Enhancing emotional wellbeing and raising self-esteem. This is done by enabling the child or young person to have a voice which is listened to and acted upon.
  • Developing a collaborative and inclusive environment.
  • Ensuring the child or young person’s individual needs are met by enabling them to identify and share what is important to them.
  • Creating a sense of responsibility for oneself and others by enabling the child or young person to give their views on actions for change.
  • Meaningful engagement, negotiation and interaction leads to more successful learning, social and emotional outcomes.
  • Providing the child or young person an opportunity to have an active role and say in the decisions that affect them in their education and schooling.

How do children and young people share their voice?

In our borough children and young people have their voice heard in a number of different ways.

Across our local area

Take a look at our Your voice – NELC | NELC (nelincs.gov.uk) for information on how children and young people can get involved in shaping the services that matter to them.

Shaping NE Lincs SEND Services

The YPAG group is made up of 14 students from seven Secondary Schools. They are assisted by their school SENCo or Teaching Assistant and take part in a range of activities with the SEND Local Offer Coordinator and Communications Officer.

NE Lincs Education and Inclusion Service and our YPAG group have worked together to develop a guide to involving Young People in the recruitment process for posts within our local authority. This will be available after it is approved at the SEND Executive meeting.

In children and young people’s EHCP, or SEND Support planning and reviews

Children and young people with an education health and care plan can have their voices heard by using the NE Lincs EHC Hub. On here in part A of their plan, pictures, photos and videos can be added to share with others and inform their EHCP.

Children and young people who receive SEND support in their educational setting should have in place a My Plan (or equivalent) which includes the voice of child or young person.

  • The child or young person should feel their experience at school/college has improved.
  • The child or young person should feel empowered and know that their voice matters and will be heard and acted upon.
  • The child or young person should be able to identify and share any worries or concerns they have.
  • The child or young person should be able to identify what has helped or not helped.
  • The child or young person and practitioner should be able to identify where further support is required and this should inform assessments and/or any future referrals.
  • The practitioner and adults working with the child or young person should have a better knowledge and understanding of that child or young person.

  • What they like to be called and how to talk to them
  • Who/what is important to them (people, toys, pets, hobbies)
  • What they like doing/are good at
  • What motivates or triggers them
  • How to communicate with them (spoken/read/written, EAL, BSL etc)
  • An accurate description of their behaviours and needs (including any personal care needs)
  • Any diagnosis that they may have
  • Ideas about how best to support and include them including specific support strategies and approaches (e.g. seating position, equipment, task structure, adult support, use of visuals)
  • Any other key information which may impact on their learning or social and emotional wellbeing
  • At times of transition, additional headings such as ‘What I am looking forward to in my new setting’ and ‘What concerns me’ can be added

How to capture the voice of the child

  • Facilitate a discussion and ask the child or young person to talk about:
    • How they feel about school, home and any concerns they may have
    • How well they feel they are doing
    • Their behaviour
    • Friends
    • What helps them learn and what sort of support they need
  • Sentence starters can be useful to get the conversation going.
  • The three houses can be adapted by professionals to discuss a pupils likes, hobbies, strengths, dislikes, worries, challenges, and their dreams, hopes and wishes. 
  • Questions should be mainly open ended and age appropriate. Use open-ended questions such as ‘Tell me what that’s like…’, ‘What do you like about…?’, ‘How does that make you feel…?’
  • If a child or young person finds it hard to express themselves, be prepared to use forced alternatives or closed questions. For example, “Do you like reading by yourself or being read to?”. Closed questions can clarify a child or young person’s view. They can also help if the child or young person is stuck. It can usually be followed by opening out the discussion subject again, e.g. “Do you have some friends? Tell me about your friends.”

It is best to try to avoid using completely closed questions.

  • The child or or young person will often need time to reflect on the question they have been asked. Give them this time and space.
  • Questionnaires can be helpful to support young people who like to know in advance how many questions they will be asked. Kids questionnaire – Google Search
  • The views of child or young person can effectively be captured if they are approached at the appropriate level and in a way that is reflective of their ability to understand. Adults should take into account the developmental age of the child or young person as well as their chronological age.
  • Language needs to be adapted so as to be said in a way that the child or young person understands.
  • Take into account any special educational needs such as hearing impairment or mental health issues.
  • Adopt a culturally competent approach and be aware of and value cultural identity.
  • Adults should always be open and honest with the child or young person as well as mindful about information that could impact negatively if it was disclosed to them.
  • Be prepared to offer alternatives if the child or young person finds it hard to express their thoughts.
  • Accept the child or young person’s perception of a situation. Be careful not to give an opinion.
  • The adult should aim for a quality discussion rather than focusing on getting through all the questions. Stop if the child or young person becomes restless or tired.
  • Make sure that the child or young person knows that their views have been acknowledged. This needs to be as concrete as possible in a child/young person-friendly language.

Use the language of exploration, this helps the child or young person to feel that this is a shared task.

For example, ‘I’m wondering what it’s like…..’

  • Reflect back what the child or young person says by repeating a phrase.
    • Reflecting back to the child or young person on what they have said often encourages them to share more information.
    • It also demonstrates that the adult has heard what they have said and taken it seriously. For some children and young people this can be very important.
    • The child or young person can also be encouraged to say more if the adult repeats a phrase they have used with the intonation of a question.
  • Some children and young people with additional needs may prefer to use visuals or objects to help with the discussion.
  • For some a play-based approach may be the most appropriate way to ascertain views.

  • Sand tray with objects
  • Make faces to show feelings out of playdough Teaching Feelings Today I Feel Play Dough Mats – Fantastic Fun & Learning (fantasticfunandlearning.com)
  • Puppets, dolls and small world play or avatars to act out responses to questions
  • Conversational snakes and ladders. Conversational Snakes and Ladders (teacher made) (twinkl.co.uk) When the child lands on a ladder, ask them to think of something that helps them in school and write this on the ladder. When the child lands on a snake, write on the snake something that makes school hard. Whilst playing the game, acknowledge the child or young person’s responses to your prepared questions and observe their body language as this can provide useful insight into their feelings at the time.
  • For some children and young people with additional needs their voice may be best captured through observation. This may be most appropriate for learners who are non-verbal, very young, or who have complex communication needs.

  • Child or young person making iPad video recordings
  • Child or young person taking photos
  • Child or young person drawing pictures
  • For some young people story writing is a preferred way to share views that may better support social, emotional and mental health needs
    • Story writing can provide a ‘space’ between the child or young person’s internal world and external reality and help them make sense of emotions and deal with issues which may otherwise be overwhelming.

The role of the adult

  • Think carefully about who will be used to gain child or young person’s views. Some children and young people may be more comfortable with someone that they don’t know well, others may respond better to a familiar person. The person needs to know the context in which the child or young person learns.
  • Train staff to capture the child or young person’s voice.
  • Adults must ensure that they do not place value on certain things a child or young person says. They cannot change the child or young person ’s meaning through their own interpretation or in the way that they record.
  • When asking questions, adults should listen carefully to responses and also consider the tone, facial expressions and body language of the child or young person. This will help to inform views and helps assess situations more accurately so the right support can be provided.
  • Decide when and how the adult will give feedback.
  • Adults need to be prepared to hear things they may not want to hear and must respect the child or young person’s views unconditionally.
  • Adults need to remain objective and need to be aware of their own reactions. Giving reassurance can alter the child or young person ’s responses.
  • Adults must try to be supportive but remain neutral.  If the child or young person needs reassurance, give this at the end of the question/questionnaire.
  • Adults need to accept the perspective of the child or young person. This does not mean that the adult has to do what the child or young person say but it does mean that they have to take their perspective seriously.
  • What can sometimes get in the way is the natural desire to help the pupil to feel better. It is important not to adopt the ‘sticking plaster’ approach and to explore difficulties, rather than just give reassurance.
  • The role of the adult is to create an atmosphere in which child or young person feel that their views can be acknowledged and accepted

Venue

  • The venue chosen for interacting with child or or young person affects the tone and flow of information. Adults need to consider environments where the child or young person is more likely to feel relaxed and comfortable.

Timing

  • The timing of gaining the child or young person’s views and who is in attendance will also have influencing factors on the child or young person. For example, if the child or young person is usually unsettled when they arrive at school this may not be a good time to try to gain their views. Similarly, just before a break may not be a good time as the child or young person may be thinking about joining peers and not fully concentrating.

  • The document/recording should be updated annually
  • The ‘All about me’ should stay with the child or young person throughout their education
  • It should be reviewed at least termly
  • It should be adapted to suit the individual, so that both the content and format are age and stage appropriate.
  • It should be reviewed prior to transition to provide a clear and accurate picture of the child or young person or young person for the new setting
You already voted!