Student Voices on School Councils

From 2018, student representation will be included on all Victorian government secondary School Councils.

Students have lobbied stakeholders, conducted research, and taken part in working groups around this issue. Research commissioned by the VicSRC and carried out by Deakin University, proposed 10 recommendations and the initial ones have been fully accepted. What will this decision mean in practice for students? What can be done to ensure that students and schools have the most valuable experience possible?

What is a School Council?

School Councils currently consist of elected members from two legally mandated categories within the school community; parents, Department of Education employees, and from this year - finally - students. Some school councils may also have an optional category of community members. Councils establish the school’s broad direction and are involved in the development of its strategic plan, approval of the school budget and the development and review of certain school policies. They run according to the Department’s mandated guidelines, and fulfill legislative functions.
Further Information about School Councils and their roles can be found here.
 
Why should I care?
Student representation on School Councils is necessary so that students’ voices are heard when important decisions are being made. Students, as a major stakeholder in schools and in education systems, should be able to expect to have their voices heard and, through being involved as partners in the formal process of School Council, they can ensure that this extends to school policy and the implementation of government policy.
 
Do you want to nominate?

Here are some key points to note if you want to nominate for School Council or want to nominate another student:

  1. All full time enrolled government school students from Years 7 to 12 have the right to nominate for School Council.
  2. Two students will be elected by students to each School Council.
  3. Student Council nominees will be voted upon by the student body through a democratic election. Your school principal will provide advice on this process and oversee it as with the parent elections. Principals will receive information around the election process in late Term 1, so nominations will likely be called for in early Term 2. All student School Council members must be confirmed by May 31st 2018.
  4. The rights of the student members on School Council will be equal to those of all other member categories; the vote of a student will be just as important as the vote of anyone else.
  5. Students will serve a term of up to two years. If they leave the school during their term, the School Council is encouraged to co-opt another student member to take their place for the remainder of the term.
  6. There are at least eight meetings a year and at least one per term. These take place outside of school hours and Councillors can attend in person or by video- or tele-conferencing.
  7. There is free training available to all members of School Councils, both face-to-face and online.

If you have further questions, please contact the School Operations and Governance Unit of the Department of Education and Training on: 

Tell us

VicSRC is also keen to hear about student experiences of how this initiative is rolled out in schools. We are particularly interested to hear from students who are elected on to Councils or who are already members of Councils. Send through your feedback to: 

VicSRC is delighted to have been a leader in the push for students on School Councils and we are very excited to see this implemented in 2018.

The Ministerial Order (when made) will establish the new position of ‘student’ in School Council membership indicating that those in power are seeing and appreciating the contribution students can make. Young people need not be limited by their age, or any other arbitrary boundary placed around them. While the Ministerial Order will pave the way for students to be on School Councils, support from all members of school communities will be necessary if students’ voices are to be truly valued.

To all of you out there, consider this a call to be the one who helps ensure that these voices are heeded.

A version of this article was originally published in Connect 229, February 2018 and written by Mia Sherman. Please find the original article here.

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