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Listening to and learning from our students

Participants in this year’s Secretary for a Day program have shared their ideas on the future of education with Secretary Mark Scott.

Mark Scott addresses students.

Secretary Mark Scott talks with student leaders.

Department of Education Secretary Mark Scott faced the hard questions today while meeting with Secretary for a Day students.

Up for discussion were topics including the department’s strategic plan, attracting teachers to rural areas, addressing inequality in private tutoring and whether the HSC was still fit for purpose.

Mr Scott welcomed the questions, saying that the Secretary for a Day program was just one way to tap into student voice.

“I think our ability to tap into student voice, beyond the [Tell Them from me] survey is an interesting opportunity for us,” Mr Scott said.

“I’m on the board of TAFE, and they offer training for people through their teens, through their twenties. TAFE has just developed an app that allows students to give feedback on classes, and on subjects, and on teachers.

“It’s really interesting – if you go to university, they will give you forms so you could provide feedback on what this learning experience has been like for you. It’s an interesting question for us, particularly in the senior years of school, whether we should be using technology to get more feedback.”

Armidale Secondary College student Ella Pringle said the opportunity to speak with the Secretary made her feel heard.

“The value the department has placed on programs like this, and not just this program but also The Game Changer Challenge, for example, and the fact that Mark Scott was able to attend himself shows the importance that the department has placed on our voices and on our student value,” Ella said.

Making change in society not just for dead poets

Will Small addresses students.

Poet Will Small tells Secretary for a Day students that their voice can lead to big changes in society.

Tackling big issues and overcoming fear were topics of conversation for the Secretary for a Day participants today as they explored poetry as a form of finding their voice.

Performance poet Will Small told students that poetry was not just about dead writers – such as William Shakespeare, Banjo Patterson and Dr Seuss; there were parallels between the speeches of Martin Luther King Jr and modern slam poets.

Mr Small shared his journey of finding poetry through hip-hop, and how that had inspired him to write about larger social issues.

“The students all have a voice that is significant and needs to be added to the conversation,” Mr Small said.

More than 40 Secretary for a Day participants spent Monday morning working with Mr Small and fellow poet Olivia Wilde, who also performed some original poems.

Endeavour Sports High School student Akash Biradar said he walked away from the session feeling empowered.

“I learnt how important my voice is,” Akash said. “Even though there are 7 billion people [in the world], my voice is unique and it’s valued, especially in this state. And how to harness that not only to make change in my own school but to lift other people up in other schools.”

This year’s Education Week theme – Every student, every voice – highlighted the programs across the state that empower students to share their stories.

“That theme acknowledges that it doesn’t matter what school a student goes to or what their particular educational interests are, we need to be fostering and nurturing a culture where all of their voices are encouraged,” Mr Small said.

The students taking part in the Secretary for a Day program were welcomed to the department’s Parramatta office on Sunday afternoon with a smoking ceremony and Welcome to Country by local Elder Uncle Lex Dadd.

“This morning I tried to use my own story of finding my voice to inspire the students to find their own voice and affirm they all have one that is significant and needs to be added to the conversation. I tried to give them some practical tools for becoming more self-aware, whether or not they want to be writers, the tools that I think are good for every person in terms of clarifying what they care about and learning how to get that across.

I love how democratic that theme is, because one thing that poetry has taught me is that it doesn’t really matter how much income somebody has, doesn’t matter what culture they have, what religion they have, what gender they are, every person has a significant story to tell. I just love that that theme acknowledges that it doesn’t matter what school a student goes to or what their particular educational interests are, we need to be fostering and nurturing a culture where all of their voices are encouraged.”

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