CEFA School Parliaments: Six Steps to Implementation
Introduce student government to the students
Form political parties
Establish a House of Representatives and student ministerial portfolios and committees
First sitting of parliament
Introduce a bicameral system of government (Senate, Legislative Council, House of Review, Student Representative Councils (SRCs)
1. Introduce student government to the students
The first stage of the implementation process generally begins with a discussion with students regarding the objectives of the project. The main aim is to create a student parliament, preferably a bicameral system of government. At this point it may be useful to show your students footage of a school that has successful implemented a school parliament. Remember that there are 3 different tried and tested pathways to CEFA School Parliaments implementation, one of these may suit your school. Next in the introduction phase, discuss the importance of the Australian Constitution and the framework it provides for the governance of our nation. Discussion may centre on the rationale for rules and regulations, and students may discuss club/groups/committees that they belong to, and the rules and regulations by which members abide and why these are so important. You may ask students to write a constitution for their club/group/committee/school
2. Form political parties
This stage requires a discussion of the nature of the Australian political system. However, it does not ask students to recreate our current political parties. Students create their own parties with their own choice of name and ideology. During CEFA School Parliaments Training Events, strategies are outlined to enable teachers to assist student understanding of the process to successfully create as close to a ‘two-party system’ as possible. Schools need to be flexible and teachers need to guide their students toward a structure which reflects our current system, including minor parties, coalitions and independents. Below are some of the parties created by CEFA’s current implementing schools: SECONDARY SCHOOL CEFA School Parliaments:Power to the People Party (PPP) Young Socialist Party (YSP)Youth Voice Party (YVPProgressive Democratic Party (PDP)Voice of the Youth Party (VYP)United Socialist Party (USP)PRIMARY SCHOOL CEFA School Parliaments:The FantasticsThe Future Party(EIC) Every Individual CountsIncreasing/Decreasing PartyThe Green Team Student Welfare Party
3. Conduct elections
Once students have formed political parties they begin their election campaigns. Teachers usually decide the timeframe for these campaigns leading up to the school election. Students and teachers discuss the parameters for the strategies students will use to inform the electorate on ‘how to vote’. Whether teachers limit students to written/hardcopy materials, audio/visual or online promotional materials, is for each individual school to decide. The style of election depends on the number of students wishing to participate. For smaller numbers of students a ‘first past the post’ election may be appropriate. For larger numbers, teachers may decide to incorporate a preferential voting system in their election. Some schools utilise a pencil and paper ballot system while others who have the capacity may incorporate an online voting system. The Australian Electoral Commission is always willing to assist schools with onsite visits to assist teachers and students with their election. They will also provide your school with ballot boxes and materials to conduct an authentic election. Please contact CEFA to liaise with your local education officer from the AEC on your behalf. In every state and territory there are other entities that can provide authentic sample ballot papers.
4. Establish a House of Representatives and student ministerial portfolios and committees
Once the election campaign is complete and the votes have been counted, you have successfully created a House of Representatives with Prime Minister and Government, Opposition and Leader, and student parliamentarians. The Prime Minister and coordinating teacher then discuss the appointment of a cabinet, which will include student Ministers. Your CEFA School Parliament may include a variety of portfolios and initiatives (e.g., Ministers for the Environment, Social Justice, Student Welfare, Indigenous Youth, School Spirit, Arts and Culture, Civics and Citizenship etc). At this point, contact CEFA to organise a visit from a CEFA representative to present a ‘golden mace’ and other resources to mark the opening of your first parliament.
5. First sitting of parliament
The first sitting of your CEFA School Parliament is a high point in the process of implementation. Choose the most appropriate location in your school for your first parliamentary sitting and begin to acquire resources and props that will create an authentic chamber. CEFA provides all teachers who attend training at one of our workshops convened around Australia with excellent resources. Each school that reaches this stage will be presented with a ‘golden mace’, despatch boxes and Speaker’s robe to authenticate the experience for your students. The first sitting of your CEFA School Parliament should include the introduction and debate of the first bill. Sample bill template Sample bill Sample parliament standing and sessional orders
6. Introduce a bicameral system of government (Senate, Legislative Council, House of Review, Student Representative Councils (SRCs))
At this stage of implementation of your CEFA School Parliament, discussion commences of the concept of the bicameral system of student government to reflect Australia’s upper and lower house structure. There are a variety of ways to incorporate this system within the context of a CEFA School Parliament.Teachers and students may debate which leadership body already in existence may serve as a second house of government.
The current Student Representative Council
Year 12 (Year 5 in a primary school)
Staff or a combination of staff and students
Alternatively, any other leadership group within your school may be most suitable. Each school is unique and therefore will decide on a second house that is appropriate for their circumstances. In some cases, a school may also decide to have just one ‘House of Representatives’, mirroring the unicameral system of government currently in place in Queensland state politics.