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The Value of Student Voice – Jennifer Oaten

The Value of Student Voice – Jennifer Oaten

“At Santa Maria College, we are encouraged, and given the opportunity, to voice our opinions, concerns and ideas. Student voice is integral in continuing to move forward as a school and as a community. It allows us to have an active role in shaping our education.”

Jasmine Chow, Head Girl 2020

As Principal, a part of my role that brings me much joy is enabling our students to have a voice and spending time listening to their thoughts, ideas and opinions.

A quote, I recently read on student voice  resonated with me:

“Student voice means recognising that young people have a perspective on the world that adults can’t share, and that their perspective should be welcomed alongside the wisdom that adult perspectives bring.”

Gretchen Brion-Meisels, Harvard Graduate School of Education

Student voice enables our girls to share what they believe. We provide them with the opportunity to share this with their peers, other year groups and our staff. We encourage students to realise that they can make a difference in their lives and the lives of others.

Enabling student voice helps our girls to develop confidence and to realise they are valued even though they are young.  Speaking up is such a valuable life skill, one which will give the youth of today the ability to influence change positively in the future.

How we give our girls a voice

Here are some of the ways our students have been given a voice at Santa Maria:

  • The Student Executive, composed of the Head Girl, Deputy Head Girl, Head Boarder and Deputy Head Boarder, meet with me once per term for lunch. A forum for listening and supporting these girls as leaders.
  • We recently discussed, with the Boarding Councillors, the courtyard spaces in boarding; how they are used, and how they could be improved. Further to our meeting, the student leaders surveyed all boarders to seek their opinions.
  • The development of the College Master Plan sought input from the whole student body and also consulted through workshops with a group of 37 students.
  • Our Student Mental Health Ambassadors have been vital in the development of our Mental Health Strategy. They are leading our actions and implementation moving forward.
  • Students drive our Service groups, and their voice is vital in determining priorities and actions. The Santa4Santa launch of our Christmas appeal is an excellent example of this.
  • The Student Leadership Council (31 students) presented several proposals in 2019. Some were approved, and some not. This process, in itself, is a great learning experience. The girls are required to make a proposal, written or verbal and are questioned, and they may need to seek further information before approval is given.
  • The Student Leadership Representatives (16 students) for each year group meet with me for afternoon tea so that I can seek their opinions and hear their suggestions on a range of issues.
  • Boarders from different year groups have provided feedback in relation to the boarding renovations.
  • Student voice is important in reviewing of courses, resources and programs and most importantly in providing feedback for teaching staff in our review process through online surveys.
  • All Year 9 students recently participated in an online survey seeking feedback regarding our Strive 9 program and the changes they would like to see

We value our students’ voice. We believe it is essential to take the time to listen to our students. They are the reason we are here. If we create authentic partnerships, we can implement positive change and provide programs, events, opportunities and policies that are most beneficial to our girls. Student voice in partnership with staff and parents provides the framework to be a successful school.

 

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