“Nothing will work unless you do.” —Maya Angelou

Maya’s words speak to a culture all schools desire: where all of its parts (students, teachers, parents and leaders) strive to be the best.

Education is not solely about imparting knowledge; it’s also about nurturing essential life skills, such as teamwork and responsibility. One effective way to instil these qualities in students is by providing them with opportunities to take on leadership roles within the school environment. By entrusting them with responsibilities, schools can encourage a culture of empowerment, growth, and inclusivity.

In this blog, we explore the benefits that your students and school will reap by handing responsibility over – in planned, structured and meaningful ways – to your young children.

Start as you mean to go on

Encouraging students to take up leadership positions from an early age can have profound effects on their personal and academic development. These roles, whether they involve leading a club, organising events, or representing peers in decision-making processes, enable students to hone crucial skills. Perhaps your star of the week in Reception hands the daily fruit, or a Year 6 pupil delivers a classroom assembly. In order for children to become leaders, they should be exposed to explicit displays of generosity, kindness, trust and compassion. The message must be clear: leaders are not the loudest in the room but the ones who sacrifice themselves for the greater good. The sooner the students recognise leadership traits, they will begin displaying their own, with then an importance on teachers to notice and praise for such behaviours.

Benefits of Student Leadership Roles

  1. Development of essential skills: Leadership roles offer a practical platform for students to develop communication, problem-solving, decision-making, and organisational skills. They learn to navigate challenges, work collaboratively, and make informed choices – abilities that are invaluable in both academic and real-world scenarios.
  1. Increased confidence and self-esteem: Taking on leadership responsibilities can significantly boost a student’s confidence. When given the chance to lead, they experience personal growth, a sense of accomplishment, and a belief in their capabilities, which translates to higher self-esteem.
  1. Enhanced empathy and understanding: Leadership roles often involve interacting with diverse groups. This exposure nurtures empathy, understanding, and appreciation for different perspectives, fostering a more inclusive and compassionate school environment.
  1. Improved performance in classroom: Students in leadership roles often demonstrate increased motivation and engagement. They develop a sense of ownership and responsibility towards their school community, leading to improved academic performance.

Everyone can be a leader

Schools should ensure that leadership roles are inclusive and accessible to all students. It’s crucial to create a variety of positions that cater to diverse interests, skills, and abilities. This inclusivity encourages participation from students with varying backgrounds and talents, promoting a richer and more representative leadership cohort.

The next generation

By nurturing leadership skills in school, educators are nurturing future leaders who will contribute positively to society. These experiences lay the groundwork for students to become empathetic, innovative, and collaborative leaders in their future endeavours.

Implementation with structure

To successfully integrate student leadership roles, schools can follow these guidelines:

    • Structured Opportunities: Be systematic. Provide structured programs or platforms where students can apply, interview, or campaign for leadership positions. Select on a criteria-based structure, taking into consideration the student’s potential and background.
    • Training and Support: Offer training sessions, mentorship, and ongoing support to students in leadership roles to equip them with the necessary skills and guidance.
    • Encourage Diversity: Ensure diverse representation in leadership roles by promoting inclusivity and welcoming students from various backgrounds.
    • Recognition and Appreciation: Recognise and appreciate the efforts of student leaders through awards, acknowledgments, or ceremonies to reinforce their dedication and inspire others.
    • Not much too structure: Ultimately, you want student leaders to think proactively and improve the world. By placing too many restrictions on them, you can diminish their roles and motivation.

In this section, we explore the ways in which schools can lead by example and use their platform to inspire the community.


    • Get the town talking about books! Strike a partnership up with a local coffee shop and recommend a children’s book that can be displayed every month. Your students can engage and support a local business, as well as encouraging the community to read more exciting books.

Reach out:

    • Students could choose a project that helps a school, local, national, or even international cause. Create a basic structure and criteria for the action-based project along with a timeline. As a group, students can find a staff member that was willing to sponsor them and support the project. School leaders can follow up and monitor the project, giving student leaders a sense of responsibility and duty. Popular projects range from gardening clubs, care home visits and supporting food banks.


Themes to pursue:

    • A student leadership team could help choose a theme for the school term or year. Student leaders can create assemblies, activities, and tasks that helped build perseverance, trust or creativity throughout the school. Perhaps the group could visit local business that have been creative to improve their success, or interview someone from the community about how they have persevered in life. Get creative by asking the student leaders to edit the videos by adding music, introductions and outros – a wonderful way to connect and share on social media.


Treat them as leaders:

    • Much like a school council, allow student leaders to be involved in strategic meetings held by senior leaders. If your students can participate in these discussions, their voice is heard and ultimately, they will feel more invested in the school’s vision for the future. Perhaps each subject has a student ambassador who works alongside the staff member overseeing the curriculum area. Children have the most incredible ideas when provided the space to free up their imagination.


Leaders as coaches:

    • The power of mentoring has an impact that is hard to measure. Older students partnering with younger students can be an effective way to role model character, kindness, and empathy, as well as supporting with their social skills. Explore time in the school timetable for mentoring sessions, allowing students to mix and collaborate. For example, paired reading is a great way to develop younger children’s confidence and ability, but also the older student’s leadership skills. Maybe your subject ambassadors can support a child in a younger year group.

View from 30,000ft

Empowering students with leadership roles within schools is a catalyst for their personal growth, skill development, and contribution to a more inclusive community. These opportunities not only benefit individual students but also foster a positive and vibrant school environment. By investing in student leadership, schools are investing in the future, nurturing capable, empathetic, and visionary leaders of tomorrow’s world.

About the author

Picture of Andrew Timbrell

Andrew Timbrell

Andrew Timbrell is a primary teacher and freelancer writer with over a decade of classroom experience, passionate about teacher well-being and personal development. Alongside his teaching and subject lead roles, he has been a part of senior leadership and is acutely aware of the wider, holistic view of education.

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