Giving students an equal voice:
2020 Student Representative Elections
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s foray into politics began with a belief that girls should be able to wear pants. “I ran for the school Board of Trustees because I thought girls should be able to wear pants as their school uniform”, she said in a recently-rediscovered video clip from 2010.
And now, students across New Zealand have the opportunity to follow in her footsteps by standing for election and voting in the September Student Trustee Elections.
Boards of most state and state-integrated schools with students above Year 9 must hold a student trustee election in September each year. Standing for election or voting for their student trustee representative is often the first real experience young people have of participating in a democratic process.
Student trustees have equal standing, voice, accountabilities and voting rights on the board. They participate in the full range of duties of a Board member, including employment, principal appraisal, student disciplinaries, handling of complaints, the leadership and monitoring of student achievement and stewardship of the school.
In her biography, Jacinda Ardern: A New Kind of Leader, author Madeleine Chapman detailed the impact and influence Ardern brought to the Morrinsville College board.
“The Board, mostly men, were used to having a student representative present at meetings, but never before had that student been so vocal or so effective. Jacinda was the voice of the students and she took her role seriously. If that was the change the people wanted, she would work hard for it.”
The idea of being a young person on a Board of Trustees might seem daunting, but student trustees get plenty of help and support to learn about and fulfil their role. The New Zealand School Trustees Association (NZSTA) provides training and learning opportunities, guidance and resources. Many principals and board chairs also take an active interest in supporting student trustees to succeed.
As well as having a voice on how their school is governed, being a student trustee provides valuable, real-world knowledge and experience for students. Just look at what it’s done for Jacinda!
Notes for media:
- NZSTA has created a video to help promote the role of student trustees. Media is welcome to share this resource; you can download it here
For more information: Lorraine Kerr, President NZSTA, 027 687 5606.