Case study: Maffra Secondary College
Maffra Secondary College was named the 2022 Student Voice School of the Year with their new approach to student leadership where students now lead improvements to engagement and connectedness.
School size: Around 600 students
School type: government, years 7 - 12
School location: Gippsland, Victoria
Maffra SC’s student voice journey began in 2021 when student leadership was reviewed. Student leaders now lead the improvement of student engagement and connectedness at school. Student leaders feel more connected to their peers and fellow student leaders, and they are growing in confidence.
The student leadership team have developed a community that embodies friendship, creativity and collaboration, and they feel empowered to work together to influence change.
How student leadership operates
After the 2021 review, an improved structure was implemented that includes the following roles:
senior student leaders
year 7-10 student leaders
senior and junior house captains and vice-captains
The application process was streamlined so that it is now a consistent process for all students. The process includes a written application, endorsement (applicants ask two staff and one student to endorse their application) and interview. School captain and vice-captain applicants also undergo a whole school speech and voting process. Once school captains and vice-captains are appointed, they form part of the interview panel for all other student leadership positions, as the application process continues through Term 4 for the following year.
Student leaders have a regular meeting schedule which rotates between whole school student leadership (students from Years 7 to 12) and arts, diversity, environment, and year-level student action team meetings. Over the course of the year, students have formed strong friendships and connections with student leaders across all year levels and are building a culture of empowerment of student voice in school decision-making.
The student leadership structure at Maffra SC is continually evolving in response to student evaluation and feedback. In Term 3, students recognised a need to increase participation of voice and agency in the middle years and as a result, the student leadership handbook was re-written from the student’s perspective. Form group leader positions were also added, to the leadership structure and student leaders ran a student leadership workshop for Year 6 students during a transition day. The workshop involved team-building activities and information about student leadership to encourage incoming Year 6’s to get involved.
What student leaders do
To help build a cohesive and connected student leadership team and to build our student’s capacity to lead and impact change, a student leadership day occurs. Students identify their team goals for the year and in 2022 their purpose was to build connectedness around the school.
This goal has been the driver behind the implementation of lots of successful student-led initiatives and events, including converting an unused staffroom into a space for student leaders to collaborate, run focus groups and meet. Student leaders consulted with our Koori Liaison Officer to choose a name for the room, which is now called Talmaru, a Gnurad-gundidj term which means “a place that inspires to learn.” Students have ownership of this space, including furnishings and the painting of a wall mural.
Many of the student-led activities have had a focus on connectedness and wellbeing. For Harmony Week, students run activities throughout the week – a casual dress day, dodgeball in the gym, meditation session, mental health lesson and gratitude chalk drawings around the school.
Students design and run lessons during Learn to Learn (L2L) class and, this year for the first time, student leaders decided to run a L2L class with combined year levels. Student leaders encouraged all students to celebrate Wear It Purple Day and RUOK? Day through student designed L2L lessons, lunchtime stalls, casual dress days, fundraising and decorations around the school.
Students also planned and implemented the school’s talent show, Maffra’s Got Talent and the first ever Maffra’s Got Talent Grand Finale whole school event.
Year 7 and 8 student leaders undertake a legacy project each year and this year they aim to improve connectedness with the local community by planning and setting up a community garden.
Student leaders also run whole school assemblies to share information about upcoming events and activities, and to acknowledge the community-based projects and opportunities that students have participated in.
Connecting student leadership with school decision-making
School captains and vice-captains meet with the principal on a fortnightly basis to discuss things happening around the school, provide feedback and seek information to share with the student body. Decisions that have been made as a result of these meetings include a new basketball court, purchase of zorb balls for lunchtime activities, the planning of a Carnival Day and the purchase of a pride flag.
Maffra SC have students on school council, and the sub committees of school council (positive climate for learning sub-committee, environment sub-committee, and the curriculum sub-committee). Student representatives on all of the committees are involved in discussions on important school matters and their confidence to voice their feedback and experiences in these discussions is growing each term. Students attending school council have been able to ensure that student-led activities run.
Student focus groups also occur on a regular basis where student feedback is often sought on school processes, protocols, and documentation. A group of students from years 7 to 12 are CURRENTLY working to provide feedback on the student responsibilities towards learning model which will be aligned to the school’s instructional model. Students have been working together to re-write the student responsibility statements to go with the instructional model.
This case study is drawn from VicSRC's Student Voice Awards, an annual celebration of best practice student voice, amplifying the important contribution of students to Victorian education and acting as a catalyst for change within Victorian schools.