One of the major principles of a school council is that it is representative of the students it is representing. School councils in Wales are a statutory requirement and must be elected as such. The requirement of secret ballot ensures that elections to school councils are fair and cannot be influenced by teachers or other students. At Newtown High School we have recently held our annual election to the Student Assembly, our school council.
At Newtown we are in the unique position where we are split across two campuses which are 30 miles apart, meaning that technology plays a massive part of our lives. We use technology in our school council too to help us communicate and reach all students.
Students have the ability to propose new ideas to the Assembly online and have other students ‘like’ them, if an idea reaches a certain percentage of likes then it will be considered it at the next meeting. Over the past year we have had 491 ideas proposed, with a total of 21,005 likes from students! We also use technology to make sure that students know what the Assembly is discussing and deciding – all the agendas, minutes, decisions and reports are electronic and can be accessed from a mobile device.
With over 1000 students split across 30 miles, our elections have always taken time to plan and organise via the traditional paper method. Printing 1000+ ballot papers is time consuming and counting them takes a significant amount of time!
This year we have decided to hold our elections electronically while still keeping the principles of secret ballot. The idea was simple, 9 tablets with custom designed software (which we built in-house) and students grouped by their year groups.
We set out our hall and turned it into a polling station with individual booths and a queuing system. At each slot, an entire year group would visit and vote via the tablets with the votes being counted instantly. We managed to cut our administration time down from days to minutes and reveal the results that day!
For the first time we were able to hold our election simultaneously across both our campuses which created an election buzz across the school. It was the most contested election we have ever had with 83 candidates standing across 9 individual elections.