SRCs in focus: Malvern Central School

#VicSRCvoices is a rolling series driven by the stories and experiences of student representatives. As we to celebrate 10 years of VicSRC, we’re celebrating you. It’s about who we are; what we value; what drives us to act; and what fuels our passions to advocate for what we believe in. Next up for our SRC Series: Malvern Central School*.

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*Winners of the Whole School Focus on Student Voice Awards at the 2014 VicSRC Recognition Awards

Article first published in Connect - #210


Malvern Central School

Malvern Central School is a Foundation to Year 8 government school with two campuses opposite one another, separated by the beautiful Malvern Gardens. The school currently has over 470 proud and happy learners who enjoy school every day. We have a Middle Years component that includes students in Years 5-8. 

Over time MCS has had many different student leadership models. Throughout the journey these have included Student Voice, Student Representative Council and Junior School Council – which is our new reshaped leadership model.

We have various ideas about what student voice is. Here are some of our thoughts:

“To me student voice at Malvern Central School is enhancing students’ learning by allowing students to have input into their learning through a student leadership program.  It is about giving great opportunities to students who are willing to be part of student leadership, student leadership opportunities, developing their skills and different experiences. At MCS the JSC gather feedback through various sources, such as surveys, reflections, and general discussions with students in order to ensure true student voice is heard.” (Charlie)

Old and New Models

Before our new and reshaped leadership model, the JSC was called the Student Representative Council (SRC). This model was used for many years ... more than we have been at MCS. The SRC featured a student leadership team of 18 students along with the support of four school captains (two Year 6 students and two Year 8 students), four house captains, four vice-house captains and two music captains. Although school captains were meant to come to all SRC meetings, the house/music vice/captains didn’t have to participate in the SRC. The SRC mainly organised and conducted fundraisers for charities, which was great for the community, however wasn’t teaching students the necessary leadership skills required to be active members of the school community. Students thought there were no real jobs or roles and nothing was being done to help the school.

At a Teach the Teacher workshop, students described the model as not particularly working and being “only a badge and nothing more”. The students also described it as ‘boring’ and said that meetings were not held regularly. We did not do much other than raising money for charities, having meetings and wearing badges. A review and feedback from SRC members and other students included comments like: “The application process to get into SRC isn’t working”; “Students need opinions on School Captains etc” and “It isn’t developing students’ leadership skills”.

The school community took this feedback on board and brought about the reshaping of the SRC program to a Junior School Council (JSC).

We had an assembly for Years 4-8 to show them the new model and, at the end, the teachers asked everyone to put their hand up if they thought that they would be interested in joining the JSC; almost everyone put their hand up. That was the start of our new leadership model.

This year the JSC model has replaced the old SRC model. The new model is mainly based on Malvern Central’s School Council. Students now recognise the JSC as a leadership role and other students now have a say in what happens with the school. It is a way for students to contribute to their school. Our JSC aims to build the leadership skills of students in Years 4-8 as well as helping the school be a better place.

Our JSC is now a combination of the Student Voice Program, the School Council model and the reshaped SRC model. The JSC features a leadership team of 22 students (four Year 4 students, 14 Year 5/6 students and four Year 7/8 students). In order to become part of the JSC, students attended an application workshop facilitated by a teacher. Students had to write an application persuading a board of teachers as to why they should be part of the JSC team and what qualities they had in them that would help the school. After a few weeks we found out who was chosen. We were all very excited.

After a few JSC meetings, the teachers in charge of organising the JSC decided that it would be a good idea if we had some training. David Mould from Second Strike came in to help develop our leadership skills. We had a few sessions with David before we elected roles within the JSC. We elected a President, a Vice President, two Secretaries, a Treasurer and two Publicity Officers. We went over what the responsibilities of each role would be. Later in Term 1, there was a Badging Ceremony and the Mayor of Stonnington, our local Council, presented the badges to the new members of the JSC.

The JSC now holds meetings regularly and is involved with a lot more than just fundraising.

This new model allows students to build onto each others’ ideas and we now get to work together with older and younger students as a whole school. We believe this really helps because we can see any problems or any ideas from many different perspectives.  As well as some people having individual roles, all of us can participate in our meetings that follow the School Council structure and proper parliamentary meetings – instead of brief talks planning the next fundraiser or writing speeches for an assembly like last year’s SRC.

Training

During the first few JSC meetings we had workshops with David Mould. He taught us how to be a leader in a professional way and taught us fun ways to do it. We learnt leadership skills that a leader should have and how to facilitate. He taught us the process of organising big events and what was needed at these events. These workshops were open for all JSC members and we all enjoyed them thoroughly. David helped us become more confident leaders, showed us new leadership skills such as public speaking and facilitation steps, and tips on how to get people’s ideas flowing.

We learnt the different values of becoming a good leader by participating in activities conducted over multiple sessions. These included sequencing the steps to running a big event with no background information (in this case a school fair), brainstorming what our new leadership program really wanted to be and what JSC really meant for us - as students. We then learnt how to speak confidently by getting out in front of the rest of the JSC and improvising a speech about a certain topic of our choice.

He also helped us make a Constitution. We thought it would be useful to write a Constitution on what works and what doesn’t work in a JSC. The JSC brainstormed what sub-headings would need to be included. The final aspects of the document were: Aims, Roles, Qualities of a Leader, Structure, Elections, Making Decisions in Meetings and Breaches. With help from everyone in the JSC, we started drafting this official document for the JSC. When the draft was completed, it was shown to the whole JSC in individual workshop sessions to look for improvements. We worked hard at it and it turned out just like we wanted it to. This is the link to our Constitution: http://tinyurl.com/pj7bts3

Discovery Program

A larger project that the Student Voice team worked on was reshaping the Discovery Program for Middle Years students, where students have choice over the activities they wanted to learn. At the Teach the Teacher workshop last year, teachers discovered that students believed there was not enough student voice. Student Voice members conducted a survey for Middle Years students, requesting feedback on current learning programs and on what they wanted to learn and discover. 

So a new Discovery Program was created. It was based on what students actually wanted to do instead of what teachers thought students would enjoy. It is now in its second year and it has proven to be a great success. It is completely based on student voice with five awesome activities for students to participate in.

Also from students’ feedback, more learning programs are now based on student voice – like Inquiry where students choose their big question within the term’s units. This is true Student Voice.

What the Student Voice team has achieved

In the JSC, we have three different portfolios. They are Social Justice, Environmental Care and also Community Partnerships. Though this year is the inaugural year of our JSC model, we have had many new experiences and organised various events:

  • Student Led ANZAC Day Ceremony
  • Round Table Discussion with Kelly O’Dwyer (our local Federal Member of Parliament)
  • Community Partnerships: Tree Planting and MECWA Aged Care Facility
  • JSC Congress
  • Organising an AFL Day
  • Round table discussion with our Principal for a Day, Sam Hibbens, about our achievements and our new student leadership model (JSC)
  • Planning to facilitate the 2014 Christmas concert
  • Planning to conduct a whole school survey
  • Hosting the very first VicSRC Regional Conference for Primary Schools in 2015

VicSRC Recognition Awards

We have been very fortunate this year and have had the opportunity to do many exciting events. We entered the VicSRC Recognition Awards in the category of ‘Whole School Focus on Student Voice’ and made a two minute video reflecting on our Student Voice journey over the previous two years, with a focus on our new JSC model and the final JSC Constitution. Each member of the JSC did a voice recording about one thing the JSC has achieved. We were thrilled to win the award, and fortunately we got a $1,500 grant for the school and a free session with David Mould from Second Strike. All the videos can be found here: http://tinyurl.com/ndyd2x6

When we look back at the year, some of us wrote these things about our journey: 

•    “The JSC has had, and will continue to have, a very positive impact on our school. The JSC has made me more confident as a leader and has been such a great opportunity. We have made the school better as well because we have strengthened community partnerships and we have given feedback so that the school can improve and become the best it can be.” (Sarsha)

•    “The JSC has definitely been a wonderful experience. I have learnt heaps about myself as a leader and a person. I have loved every minute of the JSC – running an event, helping local communities or making big decisions. This year, the JSC has definitely made a big difference in the school. Students are having a say in what they want. It is a respected leadership role that is important to the school. I will indeed take what I have learnt to future councils I join!” (Georgie)

•    “The inaugural year for the JSC at Malvern Central School has been a great one and the years to come will be even greater. The JSC has done a lot, especially since it is the first so we have had to lay the foundations for the next years of the JSC.” (Scarlett)

Charlie Gough, Chrissy Huang,
Emily Hill, Georgie Green,
Max Macciolli, Sarsha Faiola,
Scarlett Cuthbertson

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