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Students call for shorter classes, less work in post-COVID classrooms

“So we’ve maintained it; the school system is so fast and your day goes from bell to bell, it’s really about slowing down, giving them that little extra time between classes.

“Our girls have really appreciated it.”

Ms Heffernan said a reduced assessment load allowed students to dig further into their subjects.

“It gives kids a sense of confidence to feel they’ve really grasped something in more depth,” she said.

Year 11 student Kirra Johnston said she was happy students had the opportunity to give feedback.

“I was absolutely thrilled by the support we were given with a new timetable to allow for rest and stretch breaks in-between classes,” she said.

The school’s changes echo the recommendations of a recent student survey conducted by the Victorian Student Representative Council.

About 500 primary and secondary government and independent school students in a range of socio-economic areas were asked for their thoughts on remote learning and how their education could be improved once they returned to the classroom.

Student involvement in decision-making was a top priority, as was making timetables more flexible with longer breaks between classes and shorter school days.

Technology recommendations included ensuring all students had access to devices and the internet, and maintaining the daily use of online platforms to allow better communication between home and school.

A focus on mental health and wellbeing and making all students feel comfortable at school also made the list.

Bendigo Senior Secondary College VCE student Emily Gundry, from the VicSRC student executive advisory committee, said the survey gave students a much-needed voice.

“At the start of COVID it was a disappointing situation where we were the ones being directly affected by the decisions but not being involved in the conversation,” she said.

“This survey really reflects the needs of students.”

Ms Gundry said the recommendations would be easy for schools to put into practice.

“These recommendations can be managed and can be achieved,” she said.

“They had to be achieved during home learning so why not continue them in normal school environments?”

Ms Heffernan said the chance to re-evaluate their approach had been a silver lining of the pandemic disruption.

“This renewed focus on student-centred learning has been a much needed circuit-breaker,” she said.

“The students feel they’ve been heard and it’s been really valuable for them to have had some kind of control over their school environment.”

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