Derry Hannam

Recent research into education based on children’s rights in state schools in Hampshire, England.


Derry practised as much student democracy and participation in decision making as he could in both their learning and in the everyday life of the school in his twenty years as a state secondary school teacher. He ended his school career as acting principal of a large English secondary school which pioneered the role of community school, where the school is a learning resource for the whole community and the whole community is a learning resource for the school. He then became a school inspector where he tried to support other teachers and schools with similar ideas. He was part of the successful defence of Summerhill school against the threat of closure by the government in 1999. He has been an adviser/trainer/rapporteur for the Council of Europe Education for Democratic Citizenship project and a researcher/adviser to the development of citizenship education in the English national curriculum. At the request of the English ministry of education he authored the ‘Hannam Report’ based on research that demonstrates associations between democratic, participative, student centred methods in schools and higher academic results, less anti-social behaviour, and better school attendance, especially for students from economically and socially deprived backgrounds. He has worked with many European school student organisations on the issue of school democracy including OBESSU (the European School Students Organisation) and FSS the Finnish school students organisation where the students led their own school democracy project. He successfully campaigned for the creation of an English school students association and has recently done the same for young people being educated at home. He has co-authored several books on the theme that ‘…if you want young people to learn about democracy in schools they have to do it and not just listen to teachers talk about it’ including a Handbook for Successful Student Councils. Most recently he has co-authored with alumni a book which records and explores the creation of a democratic learning community of 11-13 year olds from 1969 to 1971. As a visiting fellow in student voice at the University of Sussex he was part of a project to democratise the school system of a deprived English city, Portsmouth, which has now blossomed into a sustainable social enterprise run by young people. For several years he has been a member of the international Student Voice Research Network based at Cambridge University. He has contributed to many conferences on the theme of Democratic Education and Education for Democracy including the recent Council of Europe World Forum on Democracy and Education in Strasbourg. Derry has been described as a ‘bridge person’ who tries to bring about dialogue between the democratic education movement and state or public school systems, a role that he has played in England, Finland, Denmark, Puerto Rico, The Netherlands, Bavaria and, most recently, Spain, Portugal, and Poland.