Top Tips for Teachers Taking on sTudent Councils

In just a few days, teachers and students will be returning for the 2011 school year. What thought have you put into how your Student Representative Council (SRC) will operate ? Maybe you have been allocated the role of support teacher for the SRC but have no idea what to do. Hopefully the information below will assist you in getting up and running early in 2011. 

1. Be ready for business on Day 1.

Have you already elected your student representatives for this year ?
If not, get on top of it quickly. How many students do you require for your council ? Will students nominate for positions ? Will you conduct interviews ? Whatever process you choose to go with make sure it is clear and transparent to the student body. You can’t go changing things and attempt to rig the system once things get underway.

The Australian Electoral Commission has a great online kit for running elections. Your local returning officer may also be able to assist you in holding your elections by helping create your ballot papers, speaking to your students about voting, bringing out all of the official polling materials such as ballot booths and boxes that are used at state a federal elections and assist you with counting the votes. This is currently a free service. While you’re in the process of organising this year’s elections, make a note in your diary towards the end of Term 3 to start organising your school elections so you will be ready for business on Day 1 next year.

Celebrate and promote your student representatives
Once you have obtained your student representatives be sure to celebrate and promote them amongst the school. Some ideas for this might be a special badge presentation at a whole school assembly, an afternoon tea with school administration staff – perhaps invite parents\guardians to come along or a local excursion or outing.

2. Training & Support.

Organise a P.D. session with your student representatives
Think about the roles that exist for teachers within your school. Think about the professional development you or others required to undertake to enable you to undertake those roles. For many of your  students, taking on the role of SRC member will be something new and one that they will require training in. For most, a one off training day will be sufficent to get you started, however I do know of schools that extend their training over a few days through to those that go away and run a SRC Training Camp.

Whilst it is possible to run your own training day yourself, I have found that these days work best when you have an external facilitator come in and run the day for you. This prevents you from having to wear multiple hats and allows you to ‘float’ more as the teacher advisor and provide advice about school operations whilst the facilitator can extend and challenge the students thinking.

Second Strike is an organisation that specifically providing training for student councils. All of their crew have had experience being on a student council to some degree. Each training day is tailor made to suit the needs and requirements of your school. Some sessions you might like to consider for your training day may explore the purpose of a student council, what it means to be an SRC representative, meeting procedure, action planning, promoting your student council or public speaking.

 (Disclaimer:  As the President of VISTA, Second Strike does provide extensive support and resources to our organisation.)

3. Have a plan.

What is your student council about and how does it work ?
How often does your student council meet ? How will you deal with SRC members who don’t attend meetings ?  What process will the SRC use to make decisions ? These are just some of the questions or issues you will need to address as the SRC Teacher Advisor with your SRC throughout the year.

Developing a constitution or policy for the student council is a worthwhile exercise. It can clearly outlines what the SRC is responsible for doing. More importantly, it can assist in making clear to others what the SRC is not responsible for doing. It also makes clear to others how your student council operates.

Some items to include:

Name of the organisation
        (Student Representative Council, Student Leadership Council, Student Parliament, Student Voice, Student Union etc…)

Mission Statement, Aims & Objectives
  
What is your student council about ? What do they do ?

–  Nominations, Elections and Selecting SRC Members
   How will you elect\select your SRC members ? How long can they be a member for ? What is the process for nominating ? How will you run elections ? What will you do if their is a vacancy  
  during the year ? Can the SRC co-opt members to join the SRC ?

– Membership & Positions
  
Who can be a member of the SRC ? What different positions will exist within your SRC ? Will you have officer bearers (eg: President, Vice-President, Secretary, Treasurer) ? How will they be
  selected ? What is their role ?

– Code of Conduct & Disciplinary Action
 
What do you expect from your SRC members ? What action will be taken if the code of conduct is breached ?

–  Meeting Procedures
  
How often will you meet ? Where and When will you meet ? What format will your meetings take ? How will you make decisions ? What process will you have if you need to hold an emergency
   meeting ? What is your quorum (number of people required present) to make a decision ?

– Operations
 
How will you funds be managed ? Can work for the SRC be used as credit for school based subjects ? What awards will your SRC offer students or SRC members ? What is the criteria ?

– Changes or modifications to the policy\constitution
  What is the process for changing your policy or constitution ?

What are you going to do for the year ?
The size and skill set of your student council will determine what projects you can take on for the year. Having worked with senior primary students on an SRC of about 10 members, I have found that we can manage 1 major project and up to 2 minor projects a term.

A useful task at the beginning of the year (perhaps at your training day) is to develop a plan of action for the year. Get feedback from the student body about what events or projects they would like to see the student council undertake. Determine what projects and tasks you are going to undertake for the year. Look at what other major events are happening in the school and schedule your events around them.

Work with your student council to develop a template or proforma for action planning. This can be a useful tool for students to map our their ideas and make sure that all possibilities have been considered and all requirements have been completed.

4. Resourcing.

Resourcing your SRC well will help to determine its success throughout the year. A well resourced SRC indicates to the student representatives and the wider student body that the SRC is seen as a valid and worthwhile organisation within the school.

Where does your SRC get it’s funding from ? Hopefully you school provides the student council with some core funding from it’s own global budget at the beginning of the school year. If not, then you will need to consider fundraising or grant applications to fund the resourcing and operations of the student council.

In addition to funding, consider the physical resources your student council will require to operated ? Do you have a room to meet ? Do you have an office or location you can work from ? Do you have access to a telephone, fax and a computer e-mail facilities ? Do your SRC members have folders to store minutes, agendas and other important documents  ?

 Consider how information is delivered to the SRC and how information from the SRC is distributed to others. Access to a pigeon hole (and a person who checks it regularly!) will allow for others to pass on information. Access to a photocopier will assist in distributing agenda, minutes and other documentation from meetings as well as posters promoting upcoming events.  You could also create and publish your own SRC newsletter or contribute a column to your current school newsletter. Some student councils use e-mail, develop webpages and run ‘radio stations’ over the schools  internal PA system to communicate and promote their work to others.

5. Sharing and networking and with others.

Developing local clusters
Some schools have gone about forming working relationships with student councils from other neighbouring schools. These cluster groups meet regularly to share the workings of the student councils at their respective schools, discuss common issues and concerns, seek out new ideas and ways of operating and undertake projects the extend beyond the school gate.

At a state level, the Victorian Student Representative Council (VicSRC) is the states peak body for SRC’s and secondary school students in Victoria. The organisation is funded by the Victorian Department of Education and Early Childhood Developmentand auspiced by the Youth Affairs Council of Victoria (YacVIC). They have produced a range of kits; from developing SRC networks and clusters through to how principals and school leaders can support student councils.

The most recent kit, “Represent!” is a comprehensive manual that will assist any SRC and support teacher in taking their SRC to the next level. Whilst the kit is pitched towards secondary schools, primary SRC’s will find many of tools and articles of value. Copies of this kit are being distributed to secondary schools early in 2011. Others interested in obtaining a copy can do so via the DEECD FUSE Website.

Read all about it !
CONNECT magazine is a bi-monthly Australian journal about student participation. This publication regularly features the work of student councils and other student organisations from around Australia and overseas. Recently, all past editions of CONNECT have been digitally scanned, archived and made available for free online thanks to the Australian Council for Educational Research (ACER). Access to the most recent editions are available through subscription.

What about the SRC Teacher ?
VISTA is the Victorian Institute of SRC Teacher Advisors. It is the state’s peak organisation for teachers who work with student councils across goverment, catholic and private sectors from both primary and secondary schools by providing access to resources, professional development and the opportunity for SRC teachers to network in their own region and across the state. As a member of VISTA you also receive free subscription to CONNECT and discounts to training days provided by Second Strike.


Hopefully the above information will spark your enthusiam for your student council and assist you to make 2011 your SRC’s greatest year yet !

Are you the teacher responsible for the student council at your school ?
What issues an
d challenges are you experiencing ?
What would you like to know more about or get some help with ?
What successes have you had in the past ?

 

 

 

 

8 thoughts on “Top Tips for Teachers Taking on sTudent Councils

    1. mrduncan Post author

      Thanks Joel. Hope you found some of the information of use. Hope 2011 is a great year for you and the team at Bentleigh West !

      Reply
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  2. Mel Cashen

    Hi Scott,

    Thanks you so much for all of this information. It has been a few years since I have run student councils so this will be a great help. Most of the schools I have worked at tend to see it as a fundraising once a term project and I wanted to make it so much more worthwhile for the kids.

    I have joined the Ning and look forward to learning as much as I can over the year.

    Thanks
    Mel

    Reply
    1. mrduncan Post author

      Thanks Mel – Student Councils are an area I am really passionate about so I’m pleased to see you’re getting on board !

      Forgot to mention that VISTA will be running our Wine & Cheese Night series again in 2011. Whilst Kew is a bit far to travel for you, we try to simulcast the conversations over Elluminate. We are faxing info out to schools with details in the first few weeks.

      Love to hear about some of the work that you do with your students once things get up and running.

      Reply
  3. Billie L'Heureux

    Could you tell me if there are any National Guidelines for running a student council. We are trying to decide whether our class officers should be separate from our student council officers. Any ideas? Thank you! Billie

    Reply

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