Under the guidance of Leading Teacher Hayley Dureau, Mount Waverley Secondary College is consulting with its student body about everything from homework to the physical environment.

And the Student Voice philosophy is not just a token nod to the 1800 students; it often results in action. During pandemic-related remote learning in 2020, students asked for – and got – a greater focus on student wellbeing while they were isolated from friends, and more live online lessons rather than work modules for individual completion.

Hayley, a mathematics teacher, initiated the Mount Matters student-led forums in 2016. Presenting each term to the principal and staff, it has grown into an inclusive program fully integrated with school life, and a vehicle for change for the school’s diverse community – more than half of students come from language backgrounds other than English – to have agency in things they care about.

Hayley said the students encourage the participation of quieter peers and make space for different views. “It has a huge impact on staff and student morale,” she said. “Young people develop confidence, empathy, teamwork skills, public speaking skills, critical and creative thinking skills, and they see how powerful their voice is when they share it in a constructive way.”