Pupils should have a lead role in disciplinary decision making, according to one the teachers shortlisted for the GEMS Varkey Foundation’s $1 million Global Teacher Prize.
Sean Bellamy, a teacher and co-founder of Sands School in Devon said that ‘petty rules and uniforms’ should be scrapped and that pupils should be taught skills in ‘non-violent communication and mediation’.
In an interview with the UK’s Daily Telegraph newspaper Mr Bellamy said that young people should be able "to choose how they are educated" with adults as "facilitators". Sands School, founded by Mr Bellamy and Sybilla Higgs, is one of only a few 'democratic schools' in the UK, where a council of pupils and staff make all the decisions concerning school life and lessons.
The school was set up in 1987 and now caters for 70 children aged between 10 and 17, with fees charged on a sliding scale up to £9,600 per year.
Outlining school policy, Mr Bellamy said decisions on new rules would first be referred to tutor groups, where wording would be discussed. A number of proposals would then be laid before a school meeting, where they would be debated. A decision would then be made and voted upon.
"If it’s a major decision, a majority of one might not be enough," he said, "for example, in the case of appointing new staff", which children also have a major say in.
Mr Bellamy said that the education system is "missing a trick" and that making important decisions teaches children to "understand the consequences of their actions. "Two year-olds make brilliant decisions about what they want to do," he said, "but 11 year-olds struggle."
The shortlist of 50 for this year’s Global Teacher Prize was announced in December. Three teachers from the UK have made the shortlist this year; Colin Hegarty, from Preston Manor School in London, Janet Hayward, from Cadoxton Primary School in the Vale of Glamorgan and Mr Bellamy.
Last year the prize was awarded to Nancie Atwell from the United States, who donated her winnings to the school she founded in 1990.
The prize will be announced at a gala ceremony to be held in Dubai in March.