Circle Principles: Equality – the facilitation of an equal voiceComments Off on Circle Principles: Equality – the facilitation of an equal voice

Circle Principles: Equality – the facilitation of an equal voice

I have decided to expand on the Circle Solutions principles to support good practice. This blog is about why equality and student voice matters, and how to make this authentic.

Equality is incorporated in the Circle guidelines
  • We listen to each other

Equality is also embedded in the Circle pedagogy where participants sit in a Circle together, and everyone in the Circle participates in all the activities – including the facilitator. Circles are never a time for teachers to ‘stand and deliver’. The quality of facilitation makes all the difference to both long and short-term outcomes for Circles. The ability of the facilitator to sit back and be on the same level as everyone else is a critical skill. It is the difference between being in charge of proceedings and being in control of people. Some teachers have chosen to be called by the first names in Circles as a symbol of this equality – there is no evidence that students take advantage of this.


The international research on wellbeing provides evidence that where there is more equality in a society there is more wellbeing for all. Increasing inequality leads to both physical and mental health problems, criminality, disengagement and a wide range of other issues that impact on many members of the community. In a school where everyone has an authentic voice this promotes equality as well as responsibility towards what is in everyone’s best interests, not just an elite few. Providing students with the space to develop their own class guidelines and then vote on these enables them to reflect on the values that underpin community wellbeing. Unless students experience democracy in school they are unlikely to realise what it means in practice at the socio-political level when they are old enough to vote. Circles promote citizenship.

CIRCLE ACTIVITY: Having a voice. Ask students to work in groups of five to plan an event. They are given 10 minutes to come up with their ideas and a list of actions. Before the discussion starts, each person has a sticky label placed on their forehead. They do not know what this says. It will be one of the following:

  • Ignore me
  • Ridicule my ideas – be negative
  • Agree with me – be positive
  • Interrupt me
  • Ask me questions – show interest in my ideas

At the end of the allotted time each group says how they got on with the task. Then each individual reports back on what they felt about how they were treated. What was the outcome for them? Were they able to contribute or felt silenced and/or frustrated?

Complete the activity with the sentence completion I learnt …

Rights and responsibilities

Alongside the important value of freedom is the equally important value of responsibility. One person’s freedom to play loud music at 4am, impacts on the freedom of others to sleep. Rights and responsibilities are two sides of the same coin. Working out what is fair can be complex as the following activity demonstrates. It also highlights the need to teach children how to negotiate.

CIRCLE ACTIVITY: Freedom and Responsibility. Give small groups of students one of the following scenarios and ask them to discuss and if possible suggest a solution. Share the outcomes with the Circle.


Scenarios for Young Children
Your freedom Someone else’s freedom Your responsibility to each other.
You want to play on the swing in the park Another child also wants to play but there is only one swing. How can you make this fair?
Your friend has come over to play. He wants to stay inside and watch a cartoon You want to go outside and play in the garden How can you work this out so everyone is happy?
You have your eye on the last piece of chocolate cake Your little sister takes the lot! What might you say to her?What does she need to learn? How can you help?


Scenarios for Middle Primary Children
Your freedom Someone else’s freedom Working this out
You would like to have a dog. Your parents think having a dog would be too much extra work and cost. What conversation might you have with your family?
You and two good friends want to go to a big concert in the park. One of your friends can’t come because her family can’t afford the ticket. She is upset but tells you to go anyway. Do you leave her behind?Do none of you go?Is there another answer?
You really hate most green vegetables and do not want to eat them Your mum wants to be a good parent and make sure you are healthy by having a good diet. How might you come to an agreement?
Your are pleased because you are doing well at school and the teacher is really supportive Some of your classmates are beginning to mess about. They are not doing so well and say the teacher doesn’t give them enough help. What is fair in this situation? How might it be resolved?


Scenarios for Senior Students
Freedom for one group Freedom for another How can you balance this?
Medical Associations want health warnings of foods with high sugar content as they damage health. The Food industry wants to sell as many products as they can and thinks that this would reduce sales What are the issues here? What decision would you make and why?
People in the West want to be able to buy cheap clothes This means paying people in poor countries low wages Do we have a responsibility to protect the freedoms and rights of others? How can we do this?
Major stores are putting in self-service check-outs to reduce costs and increase profits Check out staff are losing their jobs What are the responsibility issues here? And for whom? Government, shareholders, buyers, companies?



Prilleltensky, I., & Prilleltensky, O. (2006). Promoting well-being: Linking personal, organisational and community change. Hoboken, NJ: Wiley & Sons.

Wilkinson, R., & Pickett, K. (2010). The spirit level: Why equality is better for everyone. London: Penguin Books.

The next blog will be on the Circle Solutions principle of Safety.