Written By Imarsha (Year 10 Student)
Term 1: Establishing Student Voice
Keilor Downs College has a newly established student voice team of 12 students elected to represent the views of the student body. Our aim was to introduce student voice to the school community and to improve the connection between students and teachers. In the first few weeks of being elected, our team had already begun planning ways we were going to take action at the school. We were determined to work hard towards creating action.
Term 2: Respectful Relationships
In May, Keilor Downs College Student Voice attended The Respectful Relationships Leadership Forum hosted by VicSRC and the Department of Education. The workshop’s aims were to empower year 9-12 students with ideas and knowledge on how to lead change in Respectful Relationships back at their school. The workshops inspired our student voice team to focus on promoting Respectful Relationships at our school for the remainder of the year whilst also teaching us the steps involved in creating change through the A.L.T.E.R process. During this term, our team had the opportunity to provide feedback on the school’s reporting system, parent-teacher interviews and the library refurbishment. This allowed us to contribute to a stronger student involvement in school-based decisions.
Term 3: Developing Student Leadership Skills
In August, Keilor Downs College Student Voice attended the Respectful Relationships: Peer Student Training – a session focused on developing our peer facilitator skills and knowledge, as well as focusing on leadership skills and action planning. Using the knowledge developed from the previous workshop, Student Voice was able to establish how exactly we were going to take action in our school community. Our goal was to encourage respectful relationships by focusing specifically on gender stereotypes. We wanted to change the culture at Keilor Downs College to one that encourages respectful relationships and is accepting of all. From our aims, we created four student action ideas that would directly address this goal.
After completing our training course in August, Student Voice had the opportunity to facilitate the Respectful Relationships Student Voice Forum 2.0: Bringing Ideas to Action. The forum was designed to support students who attended the first Respectful Relationships Student Voice Forum in Term 1 to bring their ideas into action. Student Voice applied their knowledge, teaching other students how to identify issues faced by the student body whilst also inspiring others to enact change in their schools. This forum enabled the student voice team to develop confidence, facilitation and leadership skills.
Term 4: Turning Student Ideas into Action
Utilising all the skills and training we had gained throughout the year, it was time to take action back at Keilor Downs College: We decided to involve students directly in our work with Respectful Relationships in order to make a positive change in the school community and culture.
- Because change happens when issues are addressed early on, we planned and delivered the Year 7 Gender Equality Explore Classes -each workshop covered the gender stereotypes we see at school and we could address these with fun, interactive activities, such as through a Kahoot Quiz and poster making.
- Student feedback that we collected showed that the year 7s were able to understand the consequences of gender stereotyping -the importance of gender equality. Overall the student voice team found these workshops really engaging for the years 7s while also being very enjoyable to deliver.
- Student Voice had the opportunity to facilitate a workshop for the staff – aiming to encourage staff to lead positive change in ending gender-based violence and stereotyping at Keilor Downs College. We were able to emphasise the importance of respectful relationships to the staff as well as build on our confidence and public speaking skills.The workshop was one of the first ways that Student Voice broke through the barrier between students and teacher decisions.
- One of the other major projects that student voice focused on was White Ribbon Day- a global movement to put an end to violence against women and men. On the 23rd of November we distributed ribbons to each home group. Members of Student Voice also gave a speech at staff morning tea informing teachers about the aims of the event and the action we had taken to promote respectful relationships throughout the year.
- As a team, we decided that a creative way to promote the aims of White Ribbon Day at school was to host a banner creation competition. Students were given the opportunity to submit their own banner design promoting gender equality, having a chance to win and have their flag officially created. The banner was launched on White Ribbon Day, for the whole school community to see including students, staff and parents emphasising positivity of gender equality!
- The student voice team also got the school community together to end men’s violence against women through a photo booth. Staff and students were able to voice their ideas about the importance of respect and equality for women and men through writing their message on a blackboard, which they held up to be photographed. This action idea was really successful as the team photographed over 72 students and staff in a matter of three days. We were able to raise awareness about respectful relationships in a meaningful and engaging way.
- It wasn’t an easy process turning our ideas into school projects. It took hours of planning and dedication from all members of the committee. Overall, our team’s hard work throughout the year turned out to be really successful, as our projects were finally turned into reality. I believe that for the first year of student voice at Keilor Downs we did achieve our goal! To give the students more of a say in the school community, and to establish ourselves as a group. Student Voice grew immensely as a team this year and we hope to continue to take action in the school to resolve issues that the student body faces.