The Power of the Student Voice
I am still occasionally surprised by the wisdom, maturity and confidence of Tintern Grammar students. I wrote last term of the eight students who facilitated, to great effect, the staff Professional Learning session on ways to bring our boys and girls together more effectively for Year 10 in the Senior College. Their support for our gender-separate model in the Middle Schools was very strong, but like the staff, they see that particularly the early weeks and months of Year 10 are a period of adjustment in and out of class as students move from the parallel environments of the Middle School into a fully co-educational one in Senior College.
They offered thoughtful and considered ideas they felt the School could consider to smooth that coming together and the staff engaged with their ideas with enthusiasm. After listening to their ideas, I felt we ought to explore them further and late last term, I put these questions to our Senior College Student Representative Council (SRC).
The SRC’s responses were based on only a short period of consideration, but their key conclusion was very significant; they felt we needed to create opportunities to bring boys and girls together in Middle School through things they had in common – to join them by shared interests, views or passions, rather than to force them together arbitrarily for co-education’s sake. They cited the School’s music and drama programs, together with some House sport and performance activities as examples of this, where students work easily together and they felt these opportunities prepared them well for Senior College. The hindrance is that unfortunately, some students do few if any of these activities.
When asked what they thought we should start doing, they put forward a number of very positive ideas (interestingly, I’m not sure all which would have necessarily come from staff answering the same question). For instance, they felt that the end of year Transition Period for Year 9 particularly should be significantly longer – ideally two full weeks, although they could also see the conflict with the final Year 9 camp, which they were also advocates of! They also supported the consideration of House sport festivals, for instance a House Summer sport day, and another for winter sports, where boys and girls compete with a House identity in common, although still directly against their own gender.
Interestingly, in the classroom domain, they honed in immediately on the Year 8/9 Electives offerings. They could see that this would link boys and girls for a small portion of the timetable through common interest in hospitality, building a PC, cooking, art or commerce. They also made the point that many more students would get their preferred choices if we did this, as a greater range of electives would be available for all Year 8 and 9 students – and certainly these are true.
I asked that they take these and several other ideas back to students and parents to seek other views. I am meeting with them again this week to hear the results of these informal focus groups and I will be very interested to hear their reflections on the views of their fellow students and their families.
The student voice is a powerful one – our young women and men are the ones living the student experience, not us – and it is important that authentic opportunities are provided for its expression. Given the maturity and thought apparent in students’ responses, their input can only add to the effective collaboration that must be present in a contemporary, high quality school experience.
Factis non verbis
Please view the Video Blog below from our Principal, Mr Bradley Fry.