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Children's voices: how do we address their right to be heard?

Smyth, Geri and Catts, Ralph and Allan, Julie (2007) Children's voices: how do we address their right to be heard? Scottish Educational Review, 39 (1). pp. 51-59.

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Abstract

In applied education research, a primary goal is to impact upon policy and practice in educational settings. For this reason the Schools and Social Capital (SSC) Network of the Applied Educational Research Scheme (AERS) has adopted a collaborative approach in which teachers and pupils are encouraged to engage with and inform the research process. Projects undertaken in the SSC Network consider outcomes of schooling in the context of social capital. In planning the research activities we have noted that in many previous studies there is an absence of children's voices. The assumption appears to be that young people are passive beneficiaries of various interventions. There are however some notable exceptions in the literature. We have identified these studies and used them to inform the methodologies to be used in our current research. This article raises issues of ethics and validity and proposes methodologies for including children's voice and enabling their active participation in applied research into aspects of schooling. Examples are drawn from recent research and supplemented with observations arising from the current research in the SSC Network. We conclude by posing questions about the implications for validity and also for the impact of our research.