With the advent of the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), there is an increasing requirement that schools ensure children and young people's views are voiced, listened to and taken seriously on matters of significance. Encouraging these shifts by law is one thing; changing the culture in schools is another. For a significant proportion of schools, actively engaging students' voices on how they experience education poses a significant challenge and crucial gaps may exist between the rhetoric espoused and a school's readiness for genuine student involvement. This ethnographic study illuminates tensions that persist between headteachers' espoused views of how students are valued and students' creative images of their actual post-primary schooling experience. If cultures of schooling are to nurture the true spirit of democratic pupil participation implied by changes in the law, there is a need to develop genuine processes of student engagement in which students and staff can collaborate towards greater shared understandings of a school's priorities.
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