Students in Western Australia speak out on school and learning

Commissioner for Children and Young People

The Commissioner for Children and Young People recently tabled in Parliament Speaking Out About School and Learning report, which shares the views from 1812 school students across Western Australia on their school and learning.

Mr Colin Pettit, Commissioner for Children and Young People said that the Year 3 to Year 12 students—randomly selected from government, Catholic and independent schools across the state—overwhelmingly said that positive relationships with their teachers, their peers and their families were the foundation to staying engaged at school.

‘Having teachers who were invested in their student’s wellbeing, and were interested in the positive relationships their students made with friends and other students, as well as having families who were actively involved in their education were the key areas for students,’ Mr Pettit said.

Mr Pettit added that students also found having a positive and supportive classroom environment, interesting and relevant lessons, and a say in decisions that impacted them directly were just as important throughout their schooling. Additionally, students placed value in feeling safe, having help to overcome issues and being mentally and physically well.

‘School is a key influence on any child’s life—it is a pathway to future employment and further education—and all WA children and young people should have the opportunity to benefit from early and ongoing engagement in learning,’ Mr Pettit said.

The report found that for the majority of the time schools were meeting the needs of students. However, the report concluded that students from an Aboriginal background, students with long-term health issues or with disability, and male students in regional areas all needed greater support to stay engaged at school.

While most students recognised the value of their education and understood the importance of regular attendance, one in ten primary school students and one in five high school students indicated that they did not always feel safe in school because of the concern someone would hurt or bully them. Regardless of these concerns, all students who took part in this research said that they liked their school and felt part of the school community.

‘While there are many resources and programs available on safety in schools and student wellbeing, we need to ensure that these resources have a greater impact in our schools. With only one in five male high school students in regional areas saying they liked school, there is clearly an issue around engagement with these students that needs to be further explored,’ Mr Pettit said.

The Commissioner has made 14 recommendations in the Speaking Out About School and Learning report, which is aimed at improving support for children’s wellbeing at school. Key recommendations include:

  • Resourcing WA schools to improve student-peer and student-teacher relationships that is monitored annually.
  • Reviewing child safe policy and practice and positive behaviour management across all schools.
  • Better social and personal support for students within schools.

‘This consultation had the support of the Department of Education, Catholic Education WA and the Independent Schools Association of WA. I thank these organisations for their willingness to hear the views of their students, and the schools and students themselves for their involvement,’ Mr Pettit said.

The Commissioner will continue to work with WA education bodies to ensure the findings from this consultation are used to improve education delivery in WA.

Speaking Out About School and Learning report is available on the Commissioner for Children and Young People website.