Mental health top priority at Festival of Ideas


​The Mental Health Action Team ready to pitch their Action Plan to delegates

​​IT'S official - mental health will be the focus for Student Voice in 2021.

The decision was made by delegates who attended the second annual (COVID-safe) Festival of Ideas in The Edge at the State Library.

Run for students, by students, the Festival of Ideas provided a platform for students in Years 7-12 to discuss five of the key student-identified issues that impact on young people's educational experience.

Throughout the day students collaborated in Action Teams to offer solutions to these issues, set priorities for action and pitched their Action Plans to festival delegates, including BCE's Executive Director Pam Betts and members of the BCE leadership team.

Delegates then voted on the top issue to be actioned by the BCE Student Voice Team at a systemic level throughout 2021.

Miss Betts said from BCE's perspective, the student's choice of mental health as a priority aligned well with BCE's own focus on Wellbeing in our new Strategic Plan 2021-2025.

“I think particularly in this time, post COVID, mental health is going to be a challenge because it is so foundational to young people's learning," she said.

“Unless they are healthy in mind, body and soul they really can't learn efficiently.

“We need to make sure the foundations are there for them to learn in an environment that is safe, where they can be themselves.

"We must nurture​​ their health and their wellbeing so that when they eventually leave our schools they can then go out and make a difference in the world."

Student Voice Consultant, Emily Stirton, who facilitated the Mental Health Action Team, said the COVID-19 pandemic had really brought mental health issues into focus.

The Clairvaux MacKillop College, Upper Mt Gravatt, student said mental health had a lot of stigmas around it and reaching out for help could be really hard for some people.​

“It's such a huge topic and it's not talked about enough, especially when it affects young people," she said.

“We need to smash those stigmas so people can feel safe when seeking help."

Emily said the Action Team put a lot of effort into pulling together some great ideas into how to educate teachers, parents and students around mental health and pitched them in a way that resonated with delegates and the BCE guests.

“It was great to see it get the recognition it deserves," she said.

Students gave mental health top priority at Festival of Ideas

Organised and put together by BCE's Student Voice Team – a group of passionate student representatives from various BCE Catholic schools across Brisbane Archdiocese, the Festival of Ideas was also about having fun and connecting with other students.

BCE recognised that when students have a voice in their education, they have an increased sense of self-worth and improved engagement and purpose at school – all factors that are correlated with academic motivation. 

This year's festival focused on the theme “Partnerships in Action" and up for discussion was Belonging; Learning; Safety; Mental Health and Student Voice.

Student Voice project manager Carolyn De Witt-Royal said the theme was about showing that, when students are empowered and given the opportunity, they can come up with great ideas to help shape a safe, more inclusive and student-focused education system within BCE for all students. 

Student Voice Consultant Conner Kelly said he was amazed at the opportunity that students had been given to actually talk about and recommend change in the BCE community of schools.

The Siena Catholic College, Sippy Downs, Year 11 student said the day had been “unreal".

“We've worked so hard over the last couple of months to get a festival up to the standard of last year's event," he said.

“To see it all coming together and the delegates enjoying themselves was really excellent.

“I hope that, at the least, the delegates went away with the knowledge that their voices are actually being heard and that it does matter.

“Hopefully, they'll be able to take their learnings from today into other areas of their schooling and even their life in the future," he said.

The festival closed with a call to action, inviting delegates to join the student voice movement.

Recruitment for the 2021 BCE Student Voice Team was also launched.

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Student Voice Consultants and mentors celebrate another successful Festival of Ideas

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