Pupil influence through the student safety representative
From and including school year 7 in primary school and in upper secondary school, the pupils have the right to participate in the school’s work environment management through appointing a student safety representative.
The pupil safety representatives are appointed by all students and represent all pupils. They should be invited into work environment management under largely the same conditions as the staff safety representatives, represent the pupils and work for a good work environment at the school. Even younger pupils have the right to participate in work environment management according to age, maturity and prerequisites in general. Adults who are studying can appoint a student safety representative.
In the Work Environment Act there are special regulations about student safety representatives and their participation in the safety committee.
Which channels pupil safety representatives should have to reach out to the students is not regulated. It is up to each school to find forms for pupil participation and how all issues should be entrenched in the student group.
The school leadership should actively encourage pupils to appoint student safety representatives. It is not the principal who should appoint student safety representatives, but it is the school leader’s task to see that all pupils know that they have the right to choose the pupil safety representative themselves. The principal should also make sure that the pupils and staff are informed about who has been chosen as pupil safety representative.
How a student safety representative is chosen
It is up to the pupils to appoint a student safety representative. There are no rules about how the choice should happen. If the school does not have any policy for how the choice should occur, you decide that yourselves. You can, for example, appoint a pupil safety representative at the annual meeting of the student council or the student corps. Every school year or upper secondary school programme can also appoint their pupil safety representative at a joint school council.
The Work Environment Act does not have any rules for how long the mandate period of the pupil safety representative should be, that is to say how long a pupil should be student safety representative. That you need to come to agreement about at school.
The pupils have the right to appoint two pupil safety representative per school year at secondary school and two per programme at upper secondary school. If you appoint fewer pupil safety representatives than that, you can divide the school’s pupils between the student safety representatives.
Your role as student safety representative
If you have been chosen as student safety representative, you must make yourself known among those you represent. It is, among other things, the point that pupils should be able to come to you with problems that they need discussed by the school management. Your task is to convey the pupils’ opinions and demands on the work environment.
As student safety representative you should represent the pupils in work environment questions. This applies to both the physical and the psychosocial environment. You need to be responsive to how the atmosphere is at school and what shortcomings there might be in the work environment.
You also need to know the regulations that make demands on the work environment. It is also good to know about the Education Act and the curriculum because they steer the teaching in the school.
As pupil safety representative you should:
- be on the safety rounds
- participate in the planning of refurbishment or rebuilding of the school
- participate when the Work Environment Authority comes on an inspection.
You should monitor that the school carries out safety rounds for both the physical and psychological environment.
Contact with pupils, school management and the staff safety representative
As student safety representative, you need information channels to the pupils, school management and the teacher safety representative.
In a large school it could perhaps be difficult to gather all pupils together at the same time. But it is good if pupils could be gathered in small groups and discuss the environment at the school. One could, for example, form working groups for different questions. If the school has a website you could convey information via the website, and also accept opinions via the website.
It could be good if you have the possibility of meeting the principal regularly and discussing the school work environment.
You should also ensure that you have the possibility to meet the staff safety representative. Because we are each other’s work environment you probably have many mutual issues. Alone is not strongest so don’t hesitate to discuss the issues with the teachers. If you, for example, have problems with high noise levels in the classroom, it affects the teachers just as much as the pupils.
Forum for pupil influence
Sometimes it is easier to have influence if there are more people. Talk to your classmates. Do other pupils feel the same as you do?
A student council should exist in all classes in upper secondary school. There you can discuss questions that affect the class, but also take up such things that you think are bad at the school in general. A student council does not have to exist in primary school but the pupils have the right to use lesson time to discuss questions that are important for the pupils.
Student councils are not compulsory but exist at most schools. The student council represents the entire school.
Teacher conferences must exist at all upper secondary schools. At the conference there must be representatives for both the pupils and the school staff. Both groups should have the same number of representatives. At some upper secondary schools and in municipal adult education, one tries to have local boards. They function in a similar way to teacher conferences but the pupils are in the majority and therefore have more power than otherwise.
Independent schools do not need to have class councils, teacher conferences and so on, but can create fora for student influence in other equivalent ways.
The rights and obligations of pupil safety representatives
You must pass along opinions, complaints and demands from the students, even if you do not agree with them yourself.
As a pupil safety representative you have a duty of professional secrecy. This means that if a pupil tells you something sensitive, you must keep their confidence and only pass this information to the right persons. If it, for example, applies to cases of bullying, you may only pass this information on to the school anti-bullying team. You may not take any measures yourself or tell anything about what you have heard.
You must keep professional secrecy if you find out sensitive information in the safety committee. If you need support, you can turn to those in the school staff who have professional secrecy in their profession, for example the school nurse, school doctor or school welfare officer.
Education for student safety representative
As pupil safety representative you have the right to training to allow you to carry out your mission. You should receive this training at the beginning of your term of office and it must give you fundamental knowledge about work environment management and the regulations that exist in the work environment area. The principal must make sure that pupils receive this education when they take office as pupil safety representative.
Time off for the assignment
You have the right to receive the necessary time off to carry out the mandate. It is the principal who grants this time off. If you are in upper secondary school and find it difficult to cope with school work at the same time as your tasks as student safety representative, you can request extra support as compensation for the lessons you have missed.
The right to information
You have the right to take part of information that is needed to be able to take a standpoint in different questions. This can, for example, apply to rebuilding, changed work models or the creation of policy documents. You do not have the right, however, to take part of information that is covered by professional secrecy legislation.
The safety representative for the staff at the school has the right to stop work that constitutes a danger for life and health. The pupil safety representative does not have this right.
Intervention by the Work Environment Authority
The safety representative can request that the Work Environment Authority intervenes if the safety representative has taken up shortcomings in the work environment with the employer but the shortcomings have not been fixed within a reasonable time frame. The student safety representative does not have this right. However, the student safety representative, like all other citizens, can turn to the Work Environment Authority.
Student safety representative role in the safety committee
As pupil safety representative you have the right be a part of the school’s safety committee, work environment committee, cooperation group or whatever they call it at your school. All pupil safety representatives cannot be in the committee, so you have to choose two plus substitutes who represent the school’s pupils.
You do not have the right to leave proposals or vote in the safety committee but you have the right to comment on the questions that are raised. You can also request to have your views noted in the meeting notes or minutes of the meeting. If the pupils have an important question that you feel should be discussed in the safety committee, you can also ask the principal to put that question on the agenda.
The safety committee should, among other things, take up questions about things that concern:
- occupational health services and pupil health services
- action plans and procedures
- planning of new or altered premises and working methods
- changes in the organisation of work
- information and education concerning work environment
- work adjustment and rehabilitation activities.
Last updated 2017-03-06