Democracy, Inclusion, Participation and the potential for radical student-led Free Schools
Dr Max Hope
The connections between democracy and education have long been made, yet the number of explicitly ‘democratic
schools’ remains small. What can be learnt from the experiences of young people who are educated in an explicitly
democratic environment? This seminar explores the connections between democracy and education, and draws on research
into the student experience of being educated in explicitly democratic schools in England. Democratic schools,
it shall be argued, are an inclusive model of schooling, and as such, should be of interest to anyone who is committed
to listening to students’ voices or increasing students’ participation in decision-making.
Until now, democratic schools in England have operated outside of the mainstream sector. Indeed, one the criticisms
levelled against them is that they are profoundly undemocratic in that they charge fees for attendance. Will the Coalition
Government’s policy on Free Schools change this? The seminar will end with a brief overview of some of the new
schools which have already been approved as Free Schools, and a discussion on whether this policy offers any realistic
prospect of enabling radical, student-led schools to be available as part of the mainstream education system in England.