School Circles

School Circles is an independent documentary that explores the practice of democratic schools in the Netherlands. The film shows students, teachers and staff members coming together to dialogue, discuss proposals, mediate conflicts and make decisions about their school life.
These schools not only challenge the mainstream education, but also democracy as we know it. They put into practice Sociocracy, a method for collective organisation based on a systems perspective, in which the decisions are made by hearing all the voices and getting everyone’s consent.
School Circles connects the theory of sociocracy to its practice within schools, taking us to new possibilities of organising ourselves and our communities.
Watch the ful film at www.vimeo.com/ondemand/schoolcircles

Democratic Education & Education Cities – Yaacov Hecht

In this video, Yaacov Hecht, author of the book Democratic Education and co-founder of Hadera Democratic School in Israel, the International Democratic Education Conference (IDEC) and Education Cities, introduces us to core principles of Democratic Education and his vision of building Education Cities. According to Yaacov Hecht, 4 key defining factors of democratic education are: 1. Run the school democratically with school meetings / 2. Students have the right to choose what, how and when to learn / 3. Dialogue relationship between adults and students / 4. Human rights based curriculum

A Library Built by Students – Project Xenia

What does meaningful student voice look like? In this video we show a case study of Project ‘Xenia’ at Clevedon School in Somerset, England. Xenia is the ancient Greek concept of hospitality and it is the name given to the library that the students are planning to build in the school. Students at Clevedon ran a crowdfunding campaign and raised money to build the library out of two shipping containers, which were donated to the school. Now they are now working in commitees to design different aspects of the library so it can become a welcoming space for members of their school and local community. In the video we also show the work of Phoenix Education Trust supporting the development of the project by facilitating dialogue and collaboration among the students.

Student Voice in Action

What does a truly effective Student Council look like? This video showcases Penair School in Cornwall, which has been receiving support from Phoenix Education Trust to develop their School Council. In this school, the students from the school council engage in 4 committes: Policy and Curriculum, Environment, Events and Welfare. Within these four committes, the students crate campaigns to improve their school, such as a campaign to cut off plasctic and another to reduce bullying in the school. This video is a case study that shows how the school council in Penair is organized and how Phoenix Trust activities have been supporting student voice and participation in the school.

Sociocratic Schools – Annewiek Reijmer

In this video, Annewiek Reijmer, former general manager of The Sociocracy Group (TSG), explains how a sociocratic circle organization could be applied to a school. The scheme shown in the video is one example among many possibilities of how a school could be organized into circles, in this case with 4 levels: mentoring circle, group circle, school circle and top circle. This type of organization could be applied to all kinds of schools, from traditional to progressive. In the School Circles film, we show more from the interview with Annewiek Reijmer and Gerard Endenburg, the creator of the Sociocratic Circle Organization Method (i.e. sociocracy), alongside other types of circle organization in democratic schools.

A Piada da Escola (The Joke of School)

(Português with English subtitles) This short video promotes a dialogue with children from different ages regarding the “joke” (the point) of school, in an attempt to understand their perspectives and stimulate a sensible reflection about the role of school. To carry out the project, we talked to more than 100 children aged between 3 and 15 years, in 3 public schools in Vila Real (Portugal). We focus on the children’s perspective as the discussions about the purpose of education and school are generally restricted to adults, while children are excluded from a debate regarding their own development. In this sense, “The Joke of School” seeks to listen to the voice of children and remember their right to be participatory agents of their own education. Thia short video was designed to serve as a tool for analysis, reflection and dialogue within educational contexts in order to rethink the school practice.

Youth Perspectives on Sociocracy

During the Child Friendly Community Conference in November 2020 we from Wondering School made a presentation on Sociocracy in schools, and as a follow-up conversation we, together with Uniting for Children and Youth, invited a group of youth activists (ages 17-19) to reflect on sociocracy in their own contexts. In this conversation the youth shared what Sociocracy means to them and together they built a Word Cloud which represents a summary of their thoughts. This uplifting conversation showed us that the ideas of listening to all the voices and asking for consent seems to connect easily in the minds of young people who are seeking equity and transformation in society.

Democratic Schools – Derry Hannam

As we dream of building a learning community based on democratic practice and have been looking for inspiring schools to learn from , we asked Derry Hannam about inspiring democratic schools around the world. He pointed out that every democratic school is unique, and there are many ways to develop a democratic education. Moreover, he raises the question of whether it’s possible to create a single model to fulfil everyone’s needs. Derry Hannam studied educational science at Oxford University and practised student democracy during his work as a state school teacher for 20 years. He was also a headteacher of a large secondary school in England which pioneered the role of community school, and later he became a school inspector, taking part of the successful defense of Summerhill School against the threat of closure by the government in 1999.

Assembleia Geral de Direito Humanos
(General Assembly of Human Rights)

(Português with English subtitles) The children from Projecto Eres participated in a dialogue circle around the Human Rights. They problematized themes such as racism, equality, discrimination and justice, and recreated an UN General Assembly, with representatives of several countries, to discuss and write a Universal Declaration of Human Rights, based on their own arguments and justifications. By knowing our human rights, we cannot avoid looking at the enormous contradictions that we live and how much these rights are violated everyday around the world. Asserting these rights is essential to our process of humanization and liberation.

How a School Circle works

Else, a student from DOE (Democratic Education Eindhoven), gives an insight into how students and staff make decisions in her school on the School Circle. They use Sociocracy, a decision-making process based on the consent of everyone in the circle.
The 3 rounds that compose the decision-making process described by Else are:
1) Picture Forming 2) Opinions Round 3) Consent Round
DOE and all schools featured in School Circles film are places where students have equal voice to adults in the decision-making process.

What’s the Point of School?

This video stimulates a dialogue about the purpose of school with people on the streets of Dublin, Ireland. The reflection about the question “What’s the Point of School?” is often restricted to the academy, not engaging people outside universities in this discussion. So our motivation was to include people from diverse backgrounds in this conversation, to encourage reflection and dialogue around the role of school. As result, people responded from two angles, one criticizing school for its opressive role, and another looking for its positive influence in people’s lives.

Círculo de Jovens (Youth Circle)

(Portuguese only) O projeto Círculo de Jovens é realizado em 2 bairros sociais na região de Lisboa, Portugal. O projeto é um espaço de promoção da participação cívica e de um tomar de ação para o bem comum, focado no território onde os jovens se encontram. A ideia é contribuir para um mondo melhor, partindo do local para o global.  O convite foi feito para um grupo de jovens para pensar sobre o seu bairro, sobre o que está bem e o que poderia estar melhor, e sobre o que eles podem fazer em relação à isso. Os jovens se reúnem semanalmente em centros comunitários no seu bairro para participar de atividades, refletir e sobre e investigar o bairro e elaborar ações de intervenção para a melhoria da comunidade.

World Parliament of Children

There are thousands of children’s parliaments in India, each of them with around 30 children, and connected through child ministers who are elected sociocratically. These ministers are federated up to national level, and the national child ministers from different countries are planning to gather in a World Parliament of Children at the United Nations.
The children take care of their neighborhoods by identifying issues that affect them, coming out with proposals and acting to overcome these challenges. In this way children are having a great positive impact in their communities. These young people are leading the way for a peaceful, sustainable and joyful future.

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