Victorian Student Representative Council CEO, Julia Baron shares her thoughts on ‘equity in education.’

This article is taken directly from the National Youth Commission Australia (NYCA)'s LinkedIn 'Equity in Education' Interviews in preparation for the Bridging the Divide Summit, an event held in April 2024 that aims to contribute to the nation-wide conversation on equity in education. Our CEO, Julia Baron, was interviewed in the lead up to her panel appearance at the summit.

jules interview

Student Representative Councils (SRC) are vital in enhancing a school experience for students. Are you a teacher or SRC representative eager to make your mark on equity in education on a national level? This Summit is for you. Prepare your delegations to attend in April 2024 and contribute to the national conversation on  equity in education.

NYCA spoke to Julia Baron, CEO of the Victorian Student Representative Council about addressing the concerns of students experiencing disadvantage in education and ways to nurture a system that prioritises students perspective and wellbeing. 

SRCs empower students by providing an opportunity for their voices to be heard. The Bridging the Divide Summit is a fantastic leadership opportunity for students involved in SRCs to discuss their concerns and solutions on a national level. 

Student engagement is central to enhancing equity in education. Within schools, leadership from the student body are a vital stakeholder for advocating for the wellbeing and experience of students.

Through engaging students and providing them an opportunity to have their voices heard at the Victorian Student Representative Council, students have an opportunity to share their perspectives on how to enhance their own education experience.

1. As the CEO of the Victorian Student Representative Council, you have a unique perspective on the challenges faced by secondary school students. How do you see the Bridging the Divide Summit contributing to addressing the concerns and needs of students who experience disadvantage?

The Bridging the Divide Summit provides a unique forum for key education stakeholders, and we're delighted to see secondary school students welcomed as part of this critical conversation. Together, students and other education stakeholders can convene to share their diverse perspectives, seeking comprehensive and interconnected approaches to cultivate an educational environment that is more inclusive and equitable for marginalised student populations.

VicSRC’s top priority is to ensure that students always lead the organisation and its advocacy, supported but not directed by adult staff.

As the peak advocacy organisation for school-aged students in Victoria, VicSRC is uniquely positioned to directly engage with the student experience. Through our Student Executive Advisory Committee, who serve as the voice of Victorian students, as well as our dedicated VicSRC Ambassadors and the broader student community, we serve as a conduit for their crucial viewpoints and concerns.

We are always advocating for the inclusion of the voices of those most directly affected by any given area, and are thrilled that students will not only have the opportunity to have their voices heard at the Bridging the Divide Summit, but will also have a seat into one of the most influential decision-making arenas.

2. Student voices are crucial in shaping education policies that directly affect them. How will including student voices lead to positive changes in the education system.

It’s important to remember that students are the most important stakeholders in education. As the experts in their own education experience, ensuring that a diverse student voice is at the forefront of decision-making can ensure that education remains relevant and accessible to all students regardless of their needs and background.

There are so many good examples of student voice being used to positively impact the education system, such as the increased investment and reform of mental health and wellbeing supports in the school environment, updated consent and sex education to be relevant for today’s young people and tailored to suit different year levels, and the inclusion of students on School Counsels, something the Victorian government has supported to ensure students are always part of the conversations relating to the education system. 

3. How do you envision students playing a pivotal role in collaborating with educators, policymakers, and other stakeholders to create a more inclusive and equitable educational environment?

One of, if not the most important perspective on education, comes from students. Having their voices amplified in change-making and decision-making spaces alongside professional educational leadership has an important, disruptive affect to the status quo and allows for those experiencing the education system as it currently is, to offer innovative solutions and ideas to the most pressing challenges in creating an equitable educational environment. To assume that we as professionals are the sole experts in education dismisses the immense value that can be drawn from those who are currently engaging in the system and can provide direct insight from their own lived experience.

4. In your experience, what are some of the most pressing divides or inequalities that secondary school students face today? How can initiatives like the Bridging the Divide Summit contribute to addressing these issues on a broader scale?

We've recently had the privilege of gathering invaluable insights from the students of Victoria, hot off the press from our annual flagship event, VicSRC Congress. This event brings together a dynamic assembly of over a hundred Victorian students, providing them with a platform to engage in profound discussions about the most pressing challenges they encounter in their education journeys.

This year, the prevailing themes that emerged included the urgent need for more inclusive education; increased investments in students, schools, and educators; expanded definitions of success; and a continued emphasis on the mental health and well-being of all students. Initiatives like the Bridging the Divide Summit serve as a vital opportunity for fostering direct, impactful dialogues. These conversations offer opportunities to exchange diverse perspectives, explore potential solutions, and collaboratively address these challenges on a broader, national scale.

5. Why is the Bridging the Divide Summit important and why is VicSRC backing it?

The Bridging the Divide Summit is a pivotal event that brings together a diverse array of education stakeholders, this time including students, to work together to create an equitable education environment. VicSRC's endorsement of this summit stems from its profound significance in fostering inclusivity, collaboration, and meaningful conversations about pressing educational issues in line with our advocacy priorities.

By providing an opportunity for students to express their perspectives in a professional forum, the summit ensures that their insights directly influence policy-making and decision-making processes. This aligns seamlessly with VicSRC's mission to advocate for fair, inclusive, and equitable education policies that benefit all students. The summit's focus on holistic, intersectional approaches and its potential to spark nationwide impact make it a beacon for progress in education.

For the original article, click here.

The Bridging the Divide Summit will be held from 11-14 April, 2024 at Centrepiece at Melbourne Park. Get your tickets here.