I can’t imagine not having student voice. I have always had it.
Claire de Vos, 2010, College Captain, Key Note at iNET National Conference
The concept of Student Voice developed through iNET (International Networking for Educational Transformation) in the middle of the last decade. An international expert toured Australia extolling its importance. She used ELTHAM College as the demonstration and ELTHAM hosted one of the very first conferences on student voice. However, this was long after Student Voice became a reality at ELTHAM.
As a student, if I have an idea or an issue I will be heard.
Student Voice is about having a culture that equally values the involvement and contributions of young people. It embodies the real notion that schooling is about young people not adults!
From the Principal to the Janitor, the door is always open so young people feel that they can communicate and be part of the decision making. At ELTHAM it really started by empowering students to believe that they could make a difference. It started with a ‘pair of socks’ and now it is part of how we operate. Our young people have the confidence to have their say. I am always impressed by students from the younger years to Year 12 who believe they can come in and talk with me about what is on their minds. Towards the end of last year, two Year 5 students came in to tell me that there was a bit of unfair social pressure occurring in the Middle Years and could I help them do something about it. Not bad and we have!
Student Voice at ELTHAM is the culture. It is not simply the trappings of Student Councils and leadership. Whilst these are important, if the culture does not exist these things don’t really work because they are not part of student empowerment but rather adult condescension.
With the right culture Student Voice works. At ELTHAM formal student voice is expressed through such activities as:
The future is about confident young men and women being able to lead and make a difference. These attributes come with Student Voice.
At the 2010 National iNET Conference Key Note, Cameron Royse, now a successful law student at Monash, said:
School is a microcosm of society. One witnesses all types of social interaction and development. Any effective workplace, society, or school, needs to be built around the foundations of a good community. One that is based on proactive behaviour, integrity, synergy and above all respect. At Eltham our community creates an environment that allows for learning, development and growth. These foundations relate directly to our ability to express student voice.
In practice however, as many of you know, no school is a social utopia. There is always a bad egg out there. For example, we still have bullies, much like a society has undesirables, such as criminals. However, it is a good community that allows for these problems to be overcome by students and teachers alike, encompassing both student voice and teacher voice. What is student and teacher voice? It is an amalgamation of ideas expressed on mutual levels. A coalescence of the great minds of yesteryear and the minds of the 21st century. Fundamentally, we are trying to raise these positive ideas through community relations. Building thinkers, doers, and influential members of the 21st century.
These contributing factors push for student voice on a level greater than just the conventional leadership roles such as prefects, and year level leaders. This essentially encompasses the individual, giving them the right to student voice; creating the platform for partnerships and effective action on all levels.