BRISBANE Catholic Education is walking the talk when it comes to students having input into their educational experience, with their Student Voice initiative making waves throughout the organisation this year.
At the inaugural Student Voice and Leadership Team evening recently, five Student Voice Consultants met with BCE leaders to share and discuss the successful impacts the program has had for the year as well as identify ways to further grow and embed the Student Voice culture in BCE and across its schools.
Congratulating the students for what has a been a challenging but impactful year, BCE Acting Executive Director Dr Doug Ashleigh said he is “confident that, with the foundations that have been established over the past few years of the initiative, Student Voice in BCE will continue to go from strength to strength."
“Their passion inspires me, and I personally have learnt so much from this journey so far," Dr Doug said.
“The discussions and ideas presented in the Student Voice 2021 Annual Report and at the meeting were extremely relevant to students. The Student Voice Consultants delivered their messages with great passion and insight."
Now in its fifth year, including the initial pilot in 2017, the BCE Student Voice initiative highlights the importance of students and staff working cohesively to create a student focused education system that empowers students to shape and enrich their journeys.
The Student Voice Team consists of student representatives in Years 7-12, known as Student Voice Consultants, from a range of BCE schools. In 2021, 17 Student Voice Consultants and six student peer mentors were on the team.
BCE Professional Standards and Senior Advisor Carolyn De Witt-Ryall says we're now seeing how Student Voice in BCE “has the power to transform classrooms, contribute to school improvement and ensure our system is safe, inclusive, engaging and innovative".
“This year we held our third Festival of Ideas event which saw more than 60 secondary students from 14 BCE schools involved," Carolyn said.
“The two-day annual event is a platform for students to discuss the top issues impacting on their educational experience, planned and facilitated by our Student Voice Consultants."
“For the first time, the secondary students were given the opportunity to then vote on the issues, with the winning topic becoming the Student Voice Priority for 2022 – we recently announced this to be Mental Health."
The Students Voice Consultants are planning for success in 2022
Renee Devereaux, Student Voice Project Leader, says Student Voice is about asking and really listening to what students have to say about issues that are important to them, but that it doesn't stop at just sharing opinions and ideas.
“The true power becomes visible when students, teachers, schools and BCE leaders engage in meaningful dialogue with students about these issues and they actively partner with the students to uplift our learning communities," Renee said.
“And that's exactly what happening here at BCE – students are given the opportunity to sit in the driver's seat."
Playing a key role in implementing some of the Student Voice initiatives at his school, Year 9 student from St Augustine's College Louie Galman was inspired to join the team after feeling empowered from the 2019 Festival of Ideas.
“Being a Student Voice Consultant has strengthened my ability to make a difference and gain a sense of leadership and purpose," Louie said.
“I love being part of a team of like-minded students to create a positive difference in our BCE community and make meaningful changes for students, by students."
“I believe when an effective Student Voice is implemented in the schooling environment, it empowers students to shape and enrich safe, more inclusive and engaging communities. It allows staff to gain insight into the issues and the proactive solutions we are willing to bring to the table."
Louie said he was honoured to have the opportunity to meet directly with the BCE Leadership Team on a topic he is passionate about.
“The BCE Executive Leadership Team's response filled us with hope for the future regarding our ideas and initiatives we have planned," Louie said.
“It was a process of listening, learning, and leading which made the discussions proactive and solution-focused."
Louie is now looking forward to planning and actioning the More2Me Mental Health Campaign which was supported by the Leadership Team to be worked through further.
“This campaign will give staff insight into the world of students and provide advice on how they can be the best support people for them," Louie said.
The direct engagement with BCE Leaders will now happen twice a year, a request by the students that was endorsed by the Executives. Also endorsed was the request for a BCE-wide Student Voice Day or Week, as well as the inclusion of a new Student Voice category in the BCE Staff Excellence Awards.
Dr Doug said the students facilitated a very productive evening in ways that he will take back as suggestions to use in their next BCE planning session.
“I thoroughly enjoyed the evening and loved their approach in seeking our input in such creative ways," Dr Doug said.
“Thank you to all the students and staff involved in Student Voice – it is such an important initiative for BCE, and I am proud of each and every one, having taken the time to be an active member on behalf of all our schools and students."
For more information on the initiative, visit the Student Voice webpage.
Brisbane Catholic Education Office
2A Burke Street, Woolloongabba Qld 4102 Australia
Turrbal and Yuggera Country
GPO Box 1201 Brisbane 4001 Australia
Phone: (07) 3033 7000
Fax: (07) 3844 5101