Congress Crew member, Lachlan Hugo, shares his analysis of the action and outcomes.
During the formal debate on Thursday 9th July 2015, delegates vigorously debated and voted on Belief Statements presented by each Issues Group.
The Issues Groups that each student was part of put forward a core Belief Statement to the Congress. We had ten groups working on issues ranging from quality of facilities to the bigger picture ideas like school culture.
The first issues group proposed that “The VicSRC believes that all schools should meet required standards that ensure equipment and facilities are professional, safe, modern and well maintained. All teachers, students and classrooms must have their needs catered for. Schools should be provided with adequate and equitable funding through communication with the school community, areas which require improvements may be discovered and clarified”. During the debate, students raised concerns about how building projects would be prioritised to ensure it remains equitable for all schools while other speakers addressed this concern assuring that a fair consultation process could be implemented that would see all schools receiving the assistance they require. The delegates were convinced: the proposal was passed.
The next issues group on school culture proposed “school pride is of utmost importance across all of Victoria because it encourages an emotionally and physically supportive and accepting state that students can be in”. While there were students who supported the idea, saying it could result in students performing better at school, the proposal was ultimately not passed by the congress, with opponents citing their fears that this could lead to unhelpful competition between schools and a sense of superiority of some schools, and inferiority by others.
Once again, the much discussed issue of student teacher relationships arose at this year. The group involved with this issue presented to delegates that “The VicSRC believes that the foundations of the relationship between a teacher and a student must be built upon mutual trust, respect and unwavering support. Each party must be able to communicate effectively to ensure a healthy environment for learning.” The movers of this proposal stated that when it comes to influencing your future, the single most important thing is the relationship that you build with your teachers and that is why this proposal is so important. Some concerns were raised that the VicSRC was already doing work in this area in the form of the Teach the Teacher workshops, but students said than any work in this area could be an extension of that program, not a replacement. In the end the proposal was passed.
School leadership and governance was next on the agenda with a proposal “The VicSRC believes that there should be mandatory student involvement in decision making processes by partaking in high level policy meetings including, by not limited to, School Council meetings.” Many students spoke in favour of this proposal saying there is too much of a gap between the big bosses who make the decisions and the students who are affected by them. Concerns were raised that perhaps students aren’t in the position to be making these big decisions, but when it came to vote, this proposal was passed too.
When the issue of student welfare came up the students proposed “The VicSRC believes that all students must be able to feel safe in the school environment. Students should readily have access to support including counsellors and teachers. This establishes an environment that promotes student wellbeing and welfare to reduce the incidences of negative experiences.” The delegates moving this proposal said there are many issues facing students: including bullying, stress, depression, anxiety and violence. There needs to be greater support in schools so that students are able to face learning in a safe space where they feel emotionally and physically secure. Thanks to the support of the delegates, we look forward to seeing the work that the VicSRC will do on this is the future.
The school funding issues group proposed “The VicSRC believes that the distribution of funds should be measured and monitored fairly through a needs basis and to the standard of the VicSRC.” The movers of this proposal strongly suggested that students need equal opportunity, with no bias towards some schools. The government needs to reassess its funding for schools and ensure that we have supportive and fair funding, especially for those who are behind.
The group looking at bullying proposed “The VicSRC believes that all students deserve the right to a safe, equal and comfortable environment. They should be able to express themselves freely in today’s society without the effects of negative stigma and outcomes.” The group suggested the introduction of FairGO sports, along with other resources packs, and open lines of communication with mental health professionals. While some students questioned whether stopping bullying is a realistic goal, others said that this was no reason not to try. In the end however, the proposal didn’t get enough votes to pass.
The group responsible for working on clusters presented that “The VicSRC believes in an educational community that works together, sharing good practice and supporting each other in their work. Colleges should be supported by programs and initiatives that use clustering”. The group presented this as a big picture idea that helps to support all the other issues discussed. Students cited examples in their schools how clustering has allowed their schools to offer a greater variety of subjects for their students. The delegates were convinced by the arguments and this proposal was passed.
The second last proposal to be passed said “The VicSRC believes that all Victorian Schools should endeavour to reduce the negative factors that contribute to environmental issues in schools and promote a more sustainable step for the students of tomorrow. This can be placed in a bigger picture by raising awareness and educating school communities, with the support of the government, with this learning being tested using a ranking system”. While the proposal gained a lot of support, some delegates expressed concern over the inclusion of this in school curriculum, given the media is already saturated with this issue and students are free to make up their own mind. Speaker for said that money has already been given to schools for environmental issues and we need greater awareness and understanding amongst students.
The final issue debated was on the issue of curriculum saying “The VicSRC believes that students should have the opportunity to pursue a wide range of interests in specialised curriculum. Schools should be accommodating to the needs of the students and should be more flexible towards individuals providing the opportunity to participate in a wider range of subjects from a younger age.” Students passionately debated this with many saying that they would be more engaged if they were able to choose subjects they preferred and were good at. Others questioned whether this would result in poorer skills in the core subjects like English and maths. These core subjects are core for a reason. This final proposal was also passed.
Throughout the entire Congress sitting it was inspiring to see so much passionate debate between students on the issues that really affect them and we look forward to seeing the amazing work that the VicSRC Executive will do on these proposals.
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