Students get insider view
‘Secretary for a day’ program valuable eye-opener on the workings of a government department
A GROUP of students from across the state will get a behind-the-scenes look at the Education Department as part of the annual ‘secretary for a day’ program.
The 20 students, who have been nominated by their school, will travel to the city for the two-day event, which includes being matched with a senior officer and portfolio manager.
Andrew Gay, a Year 12 student from Lambton High School in Newcastle, made the three-hour drive to Sydney for the day last year and says it was definitely worth the trek.
“It was a very interesting day,” Gay says.
“The power balance between the department and the ministry is something that’s fascinated me, so having a tour of the department and being able to pick the brains of people that work there was great.”
Gay and fellow public school student Angele Yan, from Fort Street High School in Petersham, shadowed for- mer secretary of the education department Dr Michele Bruniges.
“She ran the department like a well-organised business,” Gay says.
“It was great to see how you can utilise effective communication skills and timemanagement skills to engage a range of communities, which she did well.”
The day gave the students an opportunity to attend the launch of Education Week at Jannali High School in Sutherland, with NSW Police Commissioner Andrew Scipione and Paralympian gold medallist Liesl Tesch.
Now studying for his HSC, Gay hopes this year’s ‘secretary for a day’ students embrace the day to see the inner workings of their schooling system.
“It’s so rare to have a chance to speak with people who have the power and responsibility to make change,” Gay says.
“I would suggest they ask as many questions as possible and speak to as many people as you can. Try not to waste the chance to really find out about how the system works.”
Education Department lawyer Michael Waterhouse is involved in the secretary for a day event and says he takes just as much from the experience as the students do.
“It’s good to get a sense of who we are serving and what their concerns and opinions are. Students are also the ones on the frontline, instead of trying to recall our own experiences it’s important to hear first-hand what the problems are,” Mr Waterhouse says.
He says he has used the day to get student perspectives on cyber-bullying, school attendance and even how they can better use social media.
“Students have all these ideas, and they help us recalibrate our sense of being a student, but it’s also reassuring to just see their enthusiasm,” he added.
Mr Waterhouse will have two students from NSW shadow him for the day and plans on having them attend legal meetings.
Angele Yan and Andrew Gay with former education department secretary Michele Bruniges.