A report from Midlothian council on their experience of Participatory Budgeting.
Supported by Scottish Government Community Choices and Midlothian Council funding, the project used PB as the method to work with seven primary schools in our three priority areas in Midlothian.
The programme supported primary school children, their families, parent council members, and school staff to deliberate and decide on projects that would have an impact upon reducing the ‘cost of the school day’. The learning and knowledge gained from the project provides an example of how PB might be used as an approach in schools to effectively allocate the Pupil Equity Fund to reduce inequalities and raise attainment, as outlined in the Pupil Equity Fund National Operational Guidelines.
Projects have been developed by children aged 8-12 (using the Child Poverty Action Group ‘Cost of the School Day clock’), Parent Council representatives and Head Teachers.
Support for Parent Councils to manage the PB process was provided by Communities Team members and included ‘Cost of the School Day’ training sessions (covering the impact that school costs have on children and families on low incomes) delivered by the Child Poverty Action Group.
The projects have been promoted through parent night’s events, school assemblies, staff briefings, school newsletters, text messaging and social media. Decision-making events have been held on parent’s evenings and at school events such as sports days and concerts. Participants have been able to make decisions in a variety of formats including voting online (Survey Monkey), using iPads, good old ‘sticky dots’ and ballot papers. Project staff were able to assist voters where appropriate, clarifying the nature of projects and how they would be undertaken.
To date the programme has enjoyed high levels of participation from the school community. Children, their families, parent councils and school staff have all been involved in the deliberative process; welcoming the opportunity to use their experience and knowledge to inform the content of potential projects. They have also highlighted the benefit of being able to have a direct impact on the way funding has been spent.
The impact for parents and pupils, upon the cost of the school day will be evaluated once these projects have been completed (anticipated to be finalised in 2019). However thus far we have been able to begin the process of further embedding the process of participation in decision making within the school and its wider community.
During the period September 2017 – June 2018 we have worked in partnership with 7 school communities. There were 86 project proposals with 78 being put forward for voting and 50 projects successfully receiving funding.
Across the 7 school communities, a total of 1573 people voted with £58,404, (£36,250 from Community Choices Fund and £22,154 from Midlothian Council), being allocated to projects that will have positive impact on the lives of young people and their families. Examples of projects that have been funded include iron on badges for school jumpers, access to laundered PE kits, a subsidised homework club, a healthy breakfast club, free fruit and subsidies for school camp, theatre and other school trips.
For further information about these projects, email PBGrants@midlothian.gov.uk