Every year the Victorian Student Representative Council (VicSRC) brings together students from around the state, to the unique event that is Congress, to use their collective brain power to come up with the top issues affecting students today – and also with some solutions to those issues.
If you’re a delegate coming to Congress for the first time or if you’re just curious about how it works, here’s a rough outline.
One of the most exciting parts of Congress, and probably the main reason we’re taking you away from your precious school holidays is to develop a resolution action plan (or RAP for short). A RAP is a kind of pitch that starts from an idea in one of your heads, and develops throughout the three days into a course of action that the Executive (the 15 student reps elected to govern VicSRC each year at Congress) can work on throughout their term. This can result in new programs, resources and even action at a state level!
Get your idea out there
The first step to developing a RAP is getting your idea out there! One of the first sessions at Congress is the Action Market, a fast-fire pitching session that brings new meaning to organised chaos. You are given a short time to get up on stage and convince the room of delegates that your issue affects students across the state and can be addressed by those very students. The 12 ideas with the most support are selected, and in an even more chaotic fashion than the original pitches, everyone rushes to find the team that they will work with over the next three days.
Break it down
Then the real work begins... well, if you can call intense debate, exciting discussion, and lots of brainstorming ‘work’. As the frenzy of the Action Market dies down, you retreat to your team room and let the icebreakers and get-to-know-you games commence. The butcher’s paper is rolled out and quickly undergoes a transformation into a mishmash of colourful ideas and actions, as you laugh and chat with your new team mates. These are exciting times, and over what seem like a few short sessions you brainstorm, critique, develop and finalise your plan, making sure to cover all your bases before making a grand debut at Open Morning.
As the morning arrives, you might feel nervous or freaked out by the sheer amount of people, or maybe the enormity of your idea, but I can guarantee that the feeling of being up on stage, backed by 250 of your peers, whose roar of approval is deafening, is one not to be missed. From here, the five most popular ideas, as decided by your fellow students, are advocated for by the VicSRC over the next year and beyond.
Make that change
Over the years, Congress has helped turn some amazing ideas into action at the highest level of education. Ever participated in a Teach the Teacher professional development session at your school? That started at Congress. Or how about the recent legislation that there must be places for two students on every government school council? That began as a student-led idea at Congress, became a long-term advocacy project for VicSRC, and has now been realised!
Students have the power to make huge change and, with Congress, our ideas can be turned into reality, and meaningful progress can be made on the issues that matter most to us. Who knows, maybe your idea could spark the next big change in our education system!
About the author
Cohen is passionate about giving every student in Victoria a say in how their education pans out. He’s a year 11 student from Castlemaine, and he’s seen that everyone learns in different ways and believes that this should be better acknowledged in the way that schools operate. Cohen is on the VicSRC Executive 2017–18.
VicSRC is the peak body representing school aged students in Victoria and is auspiced by YACVic. VicSRC is a student-led, organised and initiated organisation run for the benefit of students. Check out VicSRC here or find them all over social on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.