When running for the position of Student Representative last year, I set myself a number of goals to aspire towards, the most important of which was my aspiration to increase the involvement of students in the decision-making process of Burnside High School’s Board of Trustees. After all, it is central to my role as representative of the students to understand your views and opinions on a range of issues, so that I can best make decisions that will, with any luck, improve your time here at Burnside.
Admittedly, I’ve been a bit slow when it comes to publishing this article, but hopefully it will at least bring you up to date on the most important issues that have arisen so far, as well as some of the issues which might warrant more attention at future Board meetings.
Before I move into the real issues themselves, here’s a brief job description of the role of a Student Representative (or Student Trustee if you want to be proper). The Student Representative has much the same role as any other board member, including the right to vote, raise issues, and put forward new ideas at the monthly Board meetings. They are also elected, but by students rather than parents.
Therefore, in addition to the normal roles of a Board member, the Student Representative should also use their day-to-day role as a student to stay informed about any issues affecting other students, as well as trying to gauge the general mood of students throughout the year. This might include, for example, talking to individuals, sitting in on Student Council meetings, and sending out a Student Survey if necessary.
As you might be aware, from Term 3 onwards, the school is strongly encouraging all Year 9 students to bring along a suitable device for use in the classroom, and all other year levels are encouraged to bring their own devices as well. Although this decision was made before my time on the Board, it is still very much a present issue, particularly with Term 3 only 8 school weeks away. Indeed, this transition is so important that staff are devoting an hour every Monday this year to learning the skills necessary to teach in an ICT-rich classroom.
Personally, I’m fully supportive of the move towards blended learning, particularly with NZQA recently signalling a move towards online-based assessments in the not-too-distant future. However, it pays to be a bit discerning of anything new like this, as having to buy new devices for each student represents a significant investment for most families, as well as an enormous cost for the school as a whole.
But I would be interested to know, what are your thoughts or concerns about the move towards e-learning? And what could the school do to make e-learning even more effective?
Something of a perennial issue among students of any school, uniform continues to be an area of much discussion and debate. And with good reason: we spend upwards of 6 hours a day in our school uniform, and we’re expected to behave and learn impeccably while we’re wearing it. Last year, the uniform policy saw a change towards stricter summer and winter uniforms for both girls and boys (take a gander at moodle for all of the scintillating details on the uniform code).
To be honest, I wish we didn’t have to enforce separate winter and summer uniform codes, as we all have differing tolerances for the cold, and we shouldn’t feel uncomfortable when we’re expected to be attentive and be learning. But in saying that, I respect the position of the school, perhaps reinforced by parents, who want to make every one look a bit more, well, “uniform”, and less scruffy to other members of the public. It was also pleasing, however, to see that students were permitted to wear either summer or winter uniform after March 31st.
Then again, you might think differently. Do you think we should have compulsory summer and winter uniforms? Do you believe that we should have a uniform at all? Or if yes, would you make any changes to the design?
Young people don’t always have the best reputation for being sensible and courteous towards one another, and although only a small minority of young people act out of turn for a range of reasons, bullying remains a pressing issue that requires our constant vigilance. After all, young people on the whole are quite sensitive to others’ remarks, even if they are only meant jokingly. The rise of online and digital forms of bullying hasn’t helped the situation, either. Need I mention the dangers of Ask.fm?
Bullying is a complex issue, and we’re fortunate at Burnside that we have the deans, councillors, approachable teachers and support prefects, as well as initiatives such as 0800 PUPILS and Youthline, all at our disposal if we feel the need. But more can always be done, and staff are currently working on a new initiative called PB4L (Positive Behaviour 4 Learning), which is a Ministry of Education programme, designed to help identify specific areas—whether physical or digital—where bullying is occurring in New Zealand schools, and ways to do something about it.
So broadly speaking, do you think Burnside does a good job of addressing issues of bullying at school? And do you have any ideas about how we could make school a better place, not just by reducing the negative but also increasing the positive aspects? Ideas could be as simple as having lines, such as road markings, on popular walkways, to prevent people running into each other.
Do you have an opinion you’d like to share on any of the issues above? Or do you have another issue entirely that you think should be brought to the Board’s attention? You can get in touch with me via email (my student code is 8026) or you can find me around school.