Alstonville Public School’s student parliament, launched three years ago, is made up of a representative from each class with ministers of varying portfolios and a senate.
What’s more, it is co-led by a male and female prime minister, Alyce Polak and Riley Ball.
Teacher Kim Wheatland told The Educator that the school parliament was inspired by the original parliamentary process which involved the notion that all ideas are worthy of exploration.
“The parliament uses the idea that students are elected by their peers to represent the class and that everybody has the chance to speak and implement ideas,” Wheatland said.
“The elected senate is composed of eight Stage Three students (Usually Year 6 students) who do not change and who are our elected school leaders who represent our school at formal functions.”
Explaining how a usual session of student parliament works, Wheatland said that students are invited to make or put forward motions they think are important. Other students then speak for or against this motion with all student voices allowed the time to offer opinions or suggestions.
“The vote is then taken by every student in attendance with the outcome of the vote deciding whether the motion is carried or defeated. The most important part arrives after the vote, the selection of a committee,” Wheatland said.
“At Alstonville Public School the focus is on the students actually selecting a team who can carry out the idea to fruition.”
Alstonville Public School supports the GRIP Leadership principals that suggest that all students have the potential for leadership and that simply having a badge does not make you a leader just because you are popular.
“Our school supports the idea that students should stand up when there is an opportunity to be taken, stand up for what is right and stand up for other students,” Wheatland said.
“We do this by allowing many students to have the opportunity to represent their class by rotating the backbenchers each term.
“Our students benefit by having a voice in their student community which is relevant to student needs and wants.”
Wheatland said the biggest part of the initiative was about encouraging students to have the ability to make a plan, delegate responsibilities, utilise a timeline and carry out the plan.
Wheatland described one recent example of how the school parliament did this to achieve a sought after goal.
“A motion for new netball dresses was raised, argued for, voted on, and carried. The students took their idea to the P and C who offered to go halves in the dresses,” Wheatland explained.
“The students decided that a crazy hair day was a manageable idea which could raise some money to offset the cost to students.”
A team was then arranged who made signs, decided on a suitable date, advertised at assembly and through the student newsletter and then carried out the successful event.
When asked how other schools could benefit through adopting this idea, Wheatland said the parliament was a great way to “allow the students to make the simplest of ideas into reality.”
“I would recommend this idea to other schools who are exploring leadership potential within their schools, especially considering we are offering this opportunity to all of our students, not just the 8 elected Year 6 students annually.”