Student Representation on School Councils

Mr HIBBINS (Prahran) — (12 452) My adjournment matter is for the Minister for Education. The action I seek is for the minister to make student representation on school councils mandatory. Student representation on school councils is currently only optional. There are a number of benefits to ensuring all school councils have student representation.

The Victorian Student Representative Council (VicSRC) recently commissioned a report into student representation on school governance councils. Among the report's recommendations were that student representation on school councils be mandatory, with a special category specifically for students and student representatives on school councils — that they be equally valued members, seated equally with other members, moving towards full voting rights and membership responsibilities. To facilitate this, students should undertake training and receive support in school council work; school council meetings should support meaningful contributions; and students should be consulted about how to appoint or elect student representatives.

Among the benefits of student representation is that students have knowledge and expertise regarding school matters that other school council members may not have. Students are aware of issues and have direct experience of their school, which makes them aware of a vast range of issues and gives them a unique insight into and knowledge of their school.

There are some challenges to student representation working properly, which means it must not be tokenistic and schools must be active in making it work, but this is a change that can be achieved and will be of great benefit to students and schools.

The report states that student participation in school councils was common throughout the 1970s and was made a requirement in the 1980s. However, in the 1990s this was reversed and membership of students was no longer included. A subsequent review in 2006 found that while student participation should be encouraged, it was not made a requirement of school councils.

At its most recent congress, the VicSRC resolved in regard to school leadership and governance that there should be mandatory student involvement in decision-making processes by partaking in high-level policy meetings including but not limited to school council meetings.

Schools that have embraced student voices and student participation are finding out just how valuable this is to their school. Students are an untapped resource in the strategic planning and policy development of schools. It is now time to make student representation mandatory on school councils and realise the benefits that this will have to both schools, students and the wider community.