#VicSRCvoices: Inside our two-year campaign
Exciting news this week, with the Andrews government "seriously considering" shaking up school councils to grant students full voting rights and a real seat at the decision making table. So how did we get here? VicSRC's outgoing Exec, Rocky Sadeghi, gives the inside scoop.
The proposal of having mandatory student representation on school governance councils came from Congress 2015, a three day camp where over 170 Victorian students come together to share their ideas and opinions and to discuss issues that they are most passionate about and the issue that they believe are affecting them and their education.
VicSRC's Student representation on School Governance Councils report
The big idea
After being discussed by the students of Victoria, the students came up with the idea of having compulsory student representation in every school governance council – even those who are against the idea. Surely after having students on council they would realise the value of student voice. After all, many students may know or understand things that adults do not.
The proposal was picked up by the VicSRC as a priority issue, and so began the two-year journey to where we are today.
First up: research
With the support of the Department of Education, the VicSRC scoped a large-scale research project to deep dive into what students, teachers and principals thought of student representation on school governance councils.
The research (conducted with Deakin University) revealed many outcomes, notably that students of Victoria wish to have a voice in decision making in their school because the decisions made by others are affecting them, their school and their education.
Building the team
A combination of adults and students worked together on the research. It was lead by Dr Eve Mayes from Deakin University and with the amazing contribution, help and support by Roger Holdsworth, University of Melbourne research associate, and students from a wide range of backgrounds.
Students as researchers
The involvement of students in this project required students to be present at each of the research workshop sessions to ensure that student voice is being heard and to have an input into how the research was set up and how the final research document would look like.
This meant that the research was edited and approved by students before being published.
Having students as such an integral part of this project also allowed other students to feel more comfortable to speak up in each workshop. Students attended briefing sessions before and after the sessions, to share their ideas and feedback.
Step by step
The project didn't just 'happen'. It went through many steps from start to completion. These included:
Students coming up with the idea
Adults and other students took that idea seriously
VicSRC partnered with Deakin University, to ensure that the issue was given more specific focus
Students were asked if they would like to work on this project and the students who were passionate decided to join
We set up research workshop sessions all around Victoria to hear different ideas and points of view
From there, the report was created by everyone in the group and approved
After being published, this project gain a lot of public interest and has led to the government seriously considering policy change.
Reflecting on the project
The experience of being part of this journey was very comfortable as everyone was so welcoming and easy to work with.
The adults in this project made every single student feel apart of the group and took their ideas seriously.
Some of the workshops involved students waking up at 5AM in order to reach the destination on time, this only shows the commitment of students and what they are willing to do to have their voice heard; we need everyone to understand students and value their voice.
Minister Merlino's comment show me that he and the government value student voice and student wants and needs in Victoria and are working hard not only for, but with, students to create the change they need in order to be successful and have the best possible education.
It makes me proud that all the hard work is finally coming together to create real change for students and improve the education system.
I am hoping that as a result of our ongoing work with the Department, that every school in Victoria has at least two student representation on school governance council and the voice of those students and every other student is heard, respected, valued and taken action upon.
Authentic and meaningful change
I hope that the representation of those students is taken seriously and not just being a rule to follow. I hope that when students attend the school governance council meetings or events they feel proud, happy and apart of the group. That they feel like they can create the difference that all students need.
Students should be a member just like any other and should have full voting rights as well as the rights to share their ideas and opinions on issues and on the agenda.
Seeing it come so far with the help of every individual involved, I feel very proud and honoured that the issue of having students on school governance council is finally being taken seriously and understood by many people.
I still feel very excited to see what the future holds for our amazing team and the project.
Thank you to everyone who was involved for their support and hard work.
Roghayeh Sadeghi, VicSRC Executive 2016-2017
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