Northern College of the Arts and Technology – Case Study

FINALIST – VEC Student Voice Secondary School of the Year

Do not underestimate students’ potential. Provide them with a platform where they can rise to the occasion and make a difference to their learning and to learning in the classroom.

Student Voice: A Whole School Approach at Northern College of the Arts and Technology

At NCAT, student voice is valued and understood to be an area of shared responsibility. It is a journey where all students are encouraged to find and use their voice and play a role as leaders in their learning. Student voice operates as a partnership where teachers and students work together within an agreed framework. NCAT has created a school culture that is built on mutual respect, diversity and equality.

Students were instrumental in the inclusion of the goal of “Enhance opportunities for student voice and agency in their learning” as part of NCAT’s 2019-2022 Strategic Plan.

Students play a key role in their learning and are active in developing the frameworks of learning and decision-making through the following:

  • Student constructed and implemented surveys around teaching and learning in the classroom.
  • Student feedback to teacher dialogue (post survey) which leads to actions and improvements in learning in the classroom.
  • Student led discussion around seeking student input into schedules of delivery that include curriculum content and assessment tasks in the Year 10 Arts stream classes.
  • Development of a Voice, Agency & Leadership notice board in the main foyer.
  • Input into school policies including Anti-Bullying, Hands Off policy.
  • Student constructed and implemented surveys around teaching and learning in the classroom.
  • Student feedback to teacher dialogue (post survey) which leads to actions and improvements in learning in the classroom.
  • Student led discussion around seeking student input into schedules of delivery that include curriculum content and assessment tasks in the Year 10 Arts stream classes.
  • Development of a Voice, Agency & Leadership notice board in the main foyer.
  • Input into school policies including Anti-Bullying, Hands Off policy.
  • Students actively contributed to NCAT’s school review process in 2018 by:
    • Reviewing feedback data.
    • Meeting with reviewers to discuss and offer feedback on teaching and learning and in building a positive climate for learning.
  • Student Action Teams in diversity, social justice and sustainability.
  • Termly student led assemblies as a forum to educate all students in student voice, agency and leadership and to showcase student achievements and initiatives.
  • A redeveloped Student Leadership Team.

NCAT’s Student Leadership Model

The NCAT student leadership model reflects the uniqueness of the school, with 15 leadership positions available to represent each of the school’s program areas as well as form group representatives to respond to an increase student interest in student leadership.

Student leadership meetings have an open floor and, in 2019, they have had up to 20 regular student contributors on student leadership. The student leadership team has a clearly defined constitution, a student led preferential voting system whereby students elect their peers into positions of leadership and student run information sessions on student leadership opportunities.

Changes Made

Prior to the introduction of the student led and developed leadership model in consultation with staff, NCAT struggled to gain student commitment on the Student Representative Council (SRC). The development of student voice began in the classroom.

What’s next?

NCAT’s next step is to strengthen student participation in decision making beyond their mandated participation in school council, such as students to attend meetings around learning in the classroom (year level meetings, subject meetings).

The Challenges

Challenge: Lack of student interest in student leadership
Action: Student development of the NCAT student leadership model

Challenge: Insufficient teacher time to coordinate student voice, agency and leadership
Action: Increase time allowance from 1 to 2 periods a week

Challenge: Educate staff on the role of student voice and agency in the classroom
Action: Yearly student presentation to staff at whole staff meetings. In 2018, students briefed staff on student voice, agency and leadership in the classroom and its importance to improving student outcomes and well-being.

Challenge: Educating students on their role in building student voice and agency
Action: Provide information at student led assemblies and orientation days

NCAT’s Advice

  • Develop a whole school approach in the areas of voice and agency
  • Establish overarching school goals around student voice
  • Embed student voice goals within your school’s strategic plan
  • Involve students from the start and at every stage of development
  • Seek student input in developing a leadership model, an application process and election process
  • Do not underestimate students’ potential. Provide them with a platform where they can rise to the occasion and make a difference to their learning and to learning in the classroom.
  • Establish a role and allocate a staff member who will be responsible for overseeing the development of student voice at your school. Provide them with a suitable time allocation for them to fulfil their role
  • Develop a framework that outlines the role students will play as part of the learning landscape in your school and seek input from students and staff
  • Align the direction of voice, agency and leadership to that of your school’s values (or vice versa)

The VEC Student Voice Secondary 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. 

NCAT Case Study 2019 (83 downloads)