Castlemaine Secondary College
FINALIST – VEC Student Voice Secondary School of the Year
Student Voice: A Whole School Approach at Castlemaine Secondary College
Castlemaine Secondary College have introduced a democratic process for deciding the SRCs priorities which allows every student an equal say in what the SRC will focus on. Through this they have advocated for changes to the uniform and introduced recycling and compost bins to the school.
Castlemaine’s SRC have developed a model which allows them to base their advocacy and action priorities directly on what every student wants:
- Ask any and all students to submit an issue that they have with the school through a suggestion box in the library (they felt that asking for students to complain allowed a broader range of students to be involved – they received about 150 submissions in a school of around 650 students.
- Work with students to develop solutions to these issues.
- Present each problem and the solutions at a whole school assembly.
- Every student votes on the priority that they would most like the SRC to focus on for the next 12 months.
From this, the SRC have been working on the priorities of:
- improving the uniform
- improving waste management systems
Castlemaine have also been working on a restructure of the school captain system, student involvement in the buildings and grounds sub-committee of school council (including two students being inducted into the committee that consults with the architects for the school rebuild) and the advancement of student voice within school systems, like subject selection.
On a classroom level, Castlemaine run a program called Central Studies which combines English, Humanities and Science subjects for year nine students. Student feedback heavily influences this program, and through this feedback Central Studies has developed to include more of the general English, Humanities and Science curriculum, and assignments are now peer-assessed.
Along with the Attitudes to School Survey, Castlemaine also runs an Attitude to Class Survey for each teacher to evaluate their practice. As part of this, the SRC recently attended a staff meeting to present and discuss their interpretations based on student consultation of this data.
Castlemaine implemented a process whereby students in year 10 and 11 can vote on a new VCE subject for the school to offer. Because of this, the school is offering Global Politics in 2020.
The SRC also successfully advocated changing the school captain quotas from one female and one male captain and vice-captain, to four equal captains, made up of one male position, one female position, and two all-gender positions.
Within the uniform priority, Castlemaine have successfully advocated for the introduction of school scarves and beanies, the clarification of rules around earrings, and being allowed to wear black, blue or white long sleeves under the uniform. They are also in the process of improving the dress design to better fit and include deeper pockets.
Furthermore, Castlemaine are about a month away from introducing the three-bin-system as part of the waste management priority and plan to hold a War on Waste inspired activity day to promote awareness on this.
To become more inclusive, the Castlemaine SRC is looking at introducing quotas for VCAL students and Indigenous students.
The SRC are also going to develop a strategic plan, to guide them for the next four years. This way, they can make sure that they are always working for what the students want and are not letting personal values dictate action.
Castlemaine are also hoping to gain more diverse student voice in the area of teacher practice. One way that this could happen is for SRC students to support other students, with different viewpoints, to attend staff meetings.
Challenge: Representing a broad range of diverse students
Action: The priorities process helps the SRC to fully understand what the collective student body wants to change
Challenge: Opposition from school leadership
Action: Conduct a school-wide votes and consultation to canvas student opinion, which strengthens the argument for change
• Don’t forget your essential purpose of representing students as an SRC.
• Seek out every student’s opinion, and use this as guidance for what kind of committee or team they act as.
• Allow students to consult with teachers on curriculum and teaching practice so that teachers can reflect on how encouraging they are of student participation.
The Student Voice Primary School of the Year Award is part of the annual VicSRC Student Voice Awards which recognise and celebrate best practice initiatives, schools and people in student voice.