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Social cohesion through education

Emma Kearney and Em O'Halloran

27 Sept 2022

School communities across North Melbourne and Wyndham are diverse in all dimensions, and this presents both challenges and opportunities

School communities across North Melbourne and Wyndham are diverse in all dimensions, and this presents both challenges and opportunities. Teachers and school staff recognise the vital importance of positive interpersonal relationships between students and staff, a sense of belonging and worth, and group solidarity. However, schools are often restricted in their ability to design, implement and evaluate learning programs that focus on belonging, equity, trust, worth, and resilience.    

The Department of Education and Training has partnered with The Huddle since 2019 to enhance social cohesion through community-led delivery of tailored activities with partner schools to promote participation, belonging, equity, trust, and resilience in school communities. This project is called Social Cohesion Through Education (SCTE).

Since 2019, The Huddle has worked with more than 30 schools (including primary, secondary, and combined schools) as part of the SCTE project funded by DET. Early conversations with school administration and teachers indicated that there was a strong desire for pre-prepared learning programs that were focused on students’ holistic development and student empowerment, were aligned to the curriculum, and are highly engaging. The Huddle team co-designed SCTE initiatives, True North and Voice Your Voice, with teachers and students as an outcome of these consultations.

True North is a series of personal development workshops aligned to the Victorian Curriculum – Capabilities framework, have been delivered in nine schools to participants across 2022 as part of the SCTE project. Consistently, teachers and student comment on the significant impact of True North workshops because students are given the space and time to explore concepts such as emotional intelligence, happiness, grit, mindset, values, identity, culture, teamwork, leadership and their awareness of self, and others.

The Voice Your Voice program has inspired, built confidence, and encouraged societal engagement of the 393 students who participated in 2022. Students explored social issues, identified and practised ways to advocate and prototype ideas, and then collaborate to create an advocacy campaign about a topic important to them. 

For many schools, True North and Voice Your Voice has become an integral part of the yearly learning sequence. St Andrew’s Primary School is one such school. True North has been delivered to every Grade 6 cohort since 2019. In 2022, the grade 6 cohort completed Voice Your Voice as a student-led project to provide students with an authentic opportunity to utilise and build upon the skills and understanding they acquired from True North. Evaluation data from St Andrews Primary School students consistently indicate that students find both initiatives fun and memorable, with comments often expressing appreciation for the opportunity to learn deeply about their self, identity and culture and build upon their awareness of others, whilst testing new vocabulary and skills.

I find True North and Voice Your Voice awesome because we are not just learning reading and writing, we are learning about things like racism, homophobia, and other things in life, like my leadership and my values that I will need later. I also love the way that Emma and Josh teach as it's inclusive and I always have fun where they are teaching me and my peers.- Year 6 St Andrews student

Wyndham Central College is another school that has incorporated SCTE initiatives into its yearly program. Both schools used True North workshops facilitated online in 2020 and 2021 to engage and support students during remote learning throughout COVID lockdowns.

I have learnt so much about my own identity and have a greater understanding of the students in the program. The Huddle’s activities have opened my eyes to the possibilities of how my teaching practices can be improved.- Troy West – Teacher at Wyndham Central College

This year the “Young Mob” at Wyndham Central College created student-led media campaigns as part of the Voice Your Voice project. Teacher consultations across 2022 indicate that True North and Voice Your Voice are achieving their objectives in terms of student growth and development, alignment to curriculum and enhancing social cohesion within classrooms but also having an impact on teachers as well.

Since The Huddle has delivered True North and Voice Your Voice in our school, I have seen a huge benefit for myself and the students. Both programs are a much-anticipated event for Year 6s at St Andrew's Primary School. Attendance is highest on a Thursday as the children do not want to miss the workshops delivered by The Huddle. It is excellent preparation for secondary school, providing skills and techniques for dealing with everyday problems within the real world. The activities which build teamwork are excellent, there is rich dialogue and shared strategies on how to solve problems using true collaboration. The activities the students undertake with The Huddle have inspired me to think creatively as to how I can better engage the student in the class, particularly those with different learning needs.- Anne-Marie – Year 6 teacher at St Andrew's

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