Giving students a voice in Dandenong

For the first time, the Greater Dandenong Schools Network Student Voice conference brought together students from 10 schools to advocate for their education.

Eight primary schools, one specialist school and one secondary school met at Dandenong High School to mentor each other and learn new skills.

Students will be included on school councils for the first time this year, so it's more important than ever for students to develop these valuable leadership skills.

Making school decisions

The students discussed improvements they would like to see at school, then developed action plans to address them.

'At our school, the main issue we dealt with was creating a school canteen,' a Grade 5 attendee says. 'The mentors helped us to fill in an action planner. This included making a time line of steps.'

The students used the skills they learned at the conference and put them to action.

'Since that day, we have met with our student leadership team and staff members who want our school to be healthy,' the Grade 5 student says. 'At these meetings, we have created a proposal to present to our principal.'

Student-to-student mentoring

Dandenong High School students took on leadership roles and mentored almost 80 primary school students ranging from Grades 3-6 on using their student voice and agency.

The mentors started the day with ice-breaker games to get to know the students across the school community, before teaching the seven steps of 'Teach the Teacher'.

Associate Principal at Dandenong High Katie Watmough says the most influential schools genuinely empower students through learning programs promoting autonomy and self-direction.

'The student voice exists to enable students to contribute and have genuine ownership over aspects of the school community,' Mrs Watmough says.

The conference was an opportunity for both mentors and attendees to practise and develop their leadership, communication, organisation skills and self-direction to make change in their schools.

From one school to the whole of Victoria

Some Individual schools also have student representative councils (SRC) to give students their say on local issues.

They have the chance to speak at the state level through the Victorian Student Representative Council (VicSRC).

The VicSRC provides support and resources to both Student Representative Councils and schools, including the Student Voice and the Education State Resource.