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Student Councils in Second Level Schools

Research Staff

Anna Fiona Keogh, Dr. Jean Whyte, Aoife Daly

About the Project

This project should be set in the context of a heightened awareness of children's rights and needs. The Education Act 1998 seeks to extend the establishment and operation of Student Councils in second level schools, having recognised that Student Councils have worked to the benefit of many schools. A Student Council, as outlined by the Department of Education and Science, is a representative structure through which students can become involved in the affairs of the school, working in partnership with school management and staff and parents for the benefit of the school and its students.
This study was conducted on behalf of the National Children's Office. The aim of the research was to inform the Working Group on Second Level Student Councils which was established by the National Children's Office in co-operation with the Department of Education and Science.

What did the research focus on?

The main research objective was to describe barriers, enablers and supports to the development and operation of student councils in Ireland as perceived by key stakeholders — students, teachers, parents and Boards of Management — and to situate this in the international perspective. The research also aimed to examine contemporary thinking on student councils; to describe the operation of student councils in Ireland; to identify ways in which student councils can play a meaningful role in second level schools; to make recommendations about how student councils can be effectively supported and to make recommendations on the training needs of all stakeholders. Three good practice models of student councils were also profiled.

What does the research involve?

The research comprised of two phases. The first phase consisted of a review of national and international literature on student councils and consultation with key stakeholders. The consultation with key stakeholders was conducted through the participation of 11 schools throughout the country. In order to achieve a broad understanding of the issues, schools were selected on a number of criteria. Each school was in a different county, with at least two schools in each province. Schools were in rural, urban and town settings and varied in size from 190 students to 900 students. Five voluntary secondary schools, including single sex, co-educational and fee-paying schools, three vocational colleges, two community schools and a comprehensive school participated in the research. In each school, students from Junior Cycle and Senior Cycle and students who are members of the Student Council were consulted, as were principals, teachers, and Boards of Management. Focus group discussions with students made use of Participatory Learning and Action (PLA) research strategies which facilitate the perspective of each individual to be represented within the group perspective.

The second phase of the research profiled three good practice models of student councils.

Timescale and final products of the research

The research report 'Second Level Student Councils in Ireland: A Study of Enablers, Barriers and Supports' was launched in April 2005 and can be ordered free of charge by emailing

Last updated 15 March 2010 by The Children′s Research Centre (Email).