Seeking Student Voice

25 June 2021

The importance of student agency

Schools that effectively integrate well-being into their culture see young people as active agents in their lives. One of our key goals at St Andrew’s is to promote student agency concerning well-being. We know that a well-being approach needs to be much more than students simply being the passive recipients of a ‘programme’. So, what is agency?  Educationalist, Peter Johnson explains that agency is the sense that we have the power to affect change. Johnston writes, “If nothing else, children should leave school with a sense that if they act, and act strategically, they can accomplish their goals” (p. 29).

students in the classroom working together

At the end of 2017, Lifehack – The Prime Minister's Youth Mental Health Project – circulated a publication related to Mapping and Mobilising Conditions for Youth Well-being. After reading this publication, our school leaders asked several important questions;

How well do we involve young people in our design and decisions?

How well do we show young people they are valued and important?

Seeking student voice

This term, our student Well-being Committee, led by Oscar Bloom (Year 13 2021) and Selena Gan (Year 12 2021), initiated an event where they collected voice from over 200 Year 13 students reflecting on their experiences at St Andrew's College.

When considering how they would structure the event, the Well-being Committee were inspired by the work of David Cooperrider and wanted to use his appreciative inquiry framework. Appreciative inquiry (AI) is a process where generative questions are used to inspire positive energy and change. You can read more about this process here.

Year 13 students were encouraged to work in small groups to brainstorm the following three questions.

  1. When is St Andrew's College at its best? How does it feel, look etc?.

  2. When exactly have you felt supported by St Andrew's College? Think of specific experiences, examples, situations?

  3. Where do you see opportunity for St Andrew's College to improve in the future?

Over the past weeks, the student Well-being Committee has spent time collating and coding hundreds of student responses to see the key patterns they would like to share with our school leaders. They were particularly interested in ideas about how students see St Andrew's College improving in the future. By analysing the main themes, members of the Well-being Committee have now created working sub-committees and are planning to take action. The focus on these groups encompasses topics like curriculum, connection and culture and workload. 

students in the classroom working together

Working with students in the Well-being Committee is always a joy. It is humbling. They are busy and capable students who have an appetite to make a difference beyond themselves. I know the contribution of the Well-being Committee of 2021 will be one that will impact positively on younger students and our community for years to come.

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