Stu­dents get in­sider view

‘Sec­re­tary for a day’ pro­gram valu­able eye-opener on the work­ings of a gov­ern­ment de­part­ment

Mt Druitt - St Mary's Standard (East) - - EDUCATION WEEK - Maryanne Taouk

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.

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