- Secondary Matters
There have been so many changes to education in the last twenty years or so of my teaching career this far. Be it in the ever greater importance of research-led approaches to teaching and learning, or the central role that student wellbeing plays now in our structures and systems at school, the times are still “a-changin’”.
One area of school life that has not changed too much, however, is in relation to what we would traditionally call ‘Student Voice’. Typically, in schools across the world, Student Voice groups are first assembled. This is often through a wide variety of methods ranging from popularity contests to meritocracy and sometimes, unbelievably, ‘last one standing’ processes. They, then, become administrative bodies where the purpose can often be as much about students understanding the boredom of bureaucracy as making a difference. Finally, they then can either resemble sounding boards, complaints departments, or piecemeal focus groups.
I am proud to say that at MBIS, we have an incredibly vibrant and active student body who speak with many voices and with real agency. We could collectively refer to this with the umbrella term ‘Student Voice’ but each group’s energy, hope, and tenacity deserves more, I think. What is particularly impressive about this is how ‘vertical’ our student groups are, by which I mean, how diverse they are in having students from across year groups working together.
A few specific examples would be helpful here.
Our Eco Committee, spearheaded by the students themselves, and facilitated by Carmen, our whole school coordinator of our Eco School accreditation process, is anything but a toothless tiger. Making real changes around the ‘Reduce, Reuse, Recycle’ call to action, we are witnessing their impact in the canteen, Thrive, consideration of resource purchases, and how PTA funding is distributed. For us to become and importantly, stay, a registered Eco School, ecological decision making should inform every decision we make.
The PTA fund committee is another area in which Student Voices were heard, and what a joy it was to listen. From our panel discussions as to which ideas should be shortlisted, to the student presentations to our whole community online, to the ultimate selection and celebration of each award, our students were integral at every step. The changes we will see across our campus this year is directly attributable to them.
Just this week, we have seen the development of our first ever EDI (Equality, Diversity, and Inclusion) Committee, in which students worked with a leading expert in the field during school, workshopping areas for improvement, acceleration, or celebration of our engagement in ensuring all of our students are known, understood, respected, and recognised in meaningful ways. They will be a force for great good at MBIS and we are proud of their commitment to helping us be a school that is truly for all.
Our Sixth Form Prefect Team, too, must receive mention here. Applying for the role of Senior Prefect in Year 12, they go on to lead focus groups that have an impact across the whole school. The Student Wellbeing committee is wonderful in their support of our Positive Education programme and have broken down boundaries in the teaching of delicate or sensitive areas surrounding growth during adolescence. The Events Committee are about to launch their ‘Santa’s Grotto’ for our very youngest students and have held bake sales and other fundraisers to transform their common room into a magical space for our children as we close in on Christmas.
And in terms of Fundraising in particular, our Fundraising Thrive Team has this Term attracted terrific support from across the Secondary School. Selecting a charity to work for (Hope for Girls and Women in Tanzania), they are about to host a Primary School disco night where the proceeds will go directly to the beneficiaries of the charity in Africa and will have helped raise awareness of these issues across our school.
Needless to say, in our fortnightly assemblies, I have been thrilled to spotlight these, and other, groups who are the very epitome of student voice in action. They are leaders, all of them: leading by example, with courage, at times with quietude, and at times with real vocality, and they exemplify the very best kind of student voice that I have ever had the privilege to support.
Head of Secondary