Examples of ways to gather child or young person’s views

Gaining pupil views and tips for observing and questioning.

Examples include:

  • visual observations and written notes
  • use of video recording – share in discussions
  • books and photographs to prompt discussions
  • puppets/dolls/small world play/avatars
  • questioning
  • music/art work
  • providing choices
  • drawings
  • 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
  • sand tray and other play-based strategies.

Resources, workshops and groups to support the voice of children and young people with SEND

Children and young people with SEND aged up to 25 can share what’s important to them via the Children and Learning Engagement Hub. The hub offers online ways for young people to have a say, and shares resources and information on workshops, groups and participation projects.

Schools, colleges and settings can request an online youth voice workshop, find the themed resource packs as they develop, and find out more about the sensory story and creative arts voice projects. You can also view the calendar of monthly themes, and dates for online workshops. Watch the SEND Participation Lead’s short video message.

The Hub want to hear from all children and young people, across a wide range of needs and experiences. Young people’s views will help shape their new SEND Joint Commissioning Strategy, feed into the ongoing work of the SEND and Inclusion Strategy, and keep children, young people and families at the centre of improving services. 

    • Direct observations, including pictures, role play, small world play and the use of puppets and avatars can result in some good information about the child or young person. This type of play is more effective at child level and eye contact should be sought as much as possible, along with genuine interest in what the child or young person is saying.
    • Direct observations, including pictures, role play, small world play and the use of puppets and avatars can result in some good information about the child or young person. This type of play is more effective at child level and eye contact should be sought as much as possible, along with genuine interest in what the child or young person is saying.
    • Adults must ensure that they do not place value on certain things a child or young person says through the way they record and thus change the child’s meaning through their own interpretation.
    • 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.
  • Consider the following:

    • The child or young person should be made to feel safe and confident before starting.
    • Questions should be mainly be 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 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 and can usually be followed by opening out the discussion subject again, for example. 'Do you have some friends? Tell me about your friends.'
    • It is best to try to avoid using completely closed questions.
    • The child or young person will often need time to reflect on the question they have been asked – give them this time and space.
    • The views of child or young person can be effectively 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 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.
    • Adults should always be open and honest with 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 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 child or young person on what they have said often elicits 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. 
    • Think carefully about who will be used to gain child and young person’s views – some children and young people may be more comfortable with someone they don’t know well, others may respond better to a familiar person. The person needs to know the context in which the child learns.
    • Train staff in how to capture the child or young person’s voice.
    • 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’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 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 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.
    • The role of the adult is to create an atmosphere in which the child or young person feel that their views can be acknowledged and accepted.

    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. 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 may be thinking about joining peers and not fully concentrating.