Using a participatory budgeting (PB) approach, a Midlothian project aimed at reducing the disadvantage poorer families experience in meeting the cost of the school day has seen high levels of participation from children, their families, parent council members and school staff.
Run throughout 2018, with financial support from the Scottish Government’s Community Choices Fund and Midlothian Council funding, the project used PB to work with local people to decide how money should be spent. This involved working with 10 primary schools in the council’s 3 priority areas. The St Lukes Primary School had been allocated £4,666.00 for its projects.
Decision making events
Deliberation was facilitated through group discussions and social media. Nine projects were put forward for consideration at the decision-making events held during parents’ evenings in November.
Adults were able to vote online using Survey Monkey or in person using good old fashioned ‘sticky dots’. Children in primary 4 to 7 classes voted in the classrooms following a final opportunity to discuss the various projects. In total, 308 people voted with 30% of the votes being cast by young people aged between 8 and 12.
Of nine initiatives, participants voted to give five of them the total amount requested. Example of funded projects were: ‘Free Fruit Friday / Healthy snacks, Provision of free events or activities for children’ and ‘Subsidies for the cost of school trips’.
Experience and knowledge
The project enjoyed high levels of involvement from the school community. The children, their families, parent council and school staff involved welcomed the opportunity to use their experience and knowledge to inform the content of potential projects, and in particular to have a direct impact on how the funding would be spent.
Across the 10 schools in the 3 priority areas, 101 project proposals were submitted, with 59 projects receiving funding as a result of local people’s involvement in the decision making process. A total of 2,448 people voted and a total of £71,541 has been allocated to projects that will have positive impacts upon the lives of young people and their families.
The most significant impact of the PB project has been increasing awareness and people’s willingness to openly discuss the impact of child poverty in a school environment.