Here is the latest post from Taylor Cornes, first year primary teaching student at the University of Worcester.
At the University of Worcester, there is a Student Academic Representative (StAR) system in place for every course that the University offers. Student Academic Representatives (StARs) play a key role in representing students’ views and ensuring that students’ suggestions and issues are listened to and responded to by the University. StARs are elected by their cohorts – for my Primary Initial Teacher Education course, two StARs are elected in each group within the cohort.
Shortly after starting my course, I was fortunate to be elected by my group after showing an interest in the role. Almost as soon as I was officially elected, my Level 1 training began and it was an eye-opening experience as the requirements and responsibilities of the StARs was thoroughly explained to all those who attended.
Shortly after the training session, a StAR forum was arranged. StAR forums are large meetings that all elected StARs are able to attend; an agenda/topic for discussion is set and all StARs are able to share their feedback to the senior members of staff that are present. At the time of the first StAR forum that I attended, I was definitely daunted by the amount of students there as I haven’t spoken in front of large groups of people before. However, after seeing a couple of familiar faces dotted around and observing how respectful the staff and students were of everyone’s views, I instantly felt more relaxed. Through attending the following StAR forums, focus groups, meetings and the Level 2 training session, my confidence has soared and a couple of months ago I attended my very first Course Management Committee Meeting – which wasn’t so scary after all!
During my time as a StAR, I have been offered many opportunities that have given me an insight into how the University functions, and the ways in which the student voice can influence decisions made. Nevertheless, I would be lying if I said it wasn’t hard work! As I was chosen to be the Year Group Representative, the workload and expectations almost doubled and even now with a few weeks to go before my first year is over, I am probably the busiest I have ever been (assignment and assessment deadlines aside).
Although my role as a StAR has consumed a large amount of my time and I have had to be dedicated to the role every single day, it has been most enjoyable and I am definitely eager to put myself forward to continue the role in my second year. I feel as though I have finally ‘found my feet’ and made some amazing friends through networking at meetings, focus groups and forums. I was able to apply for the StAR Accreditation Scheme, which is put in place to formally recognise the efforts and achievements of the StARs on their degree transcripts. I applied for the Gold Accreditation (which consisted of filling out an application about my time as a StAR and delivering a presentation to a panel) and since then I have been informed that my application was approved!
Being a StAR is not about popularity or authority, and it is certainly not a role to be taken on just to enhance your CV. From the moment you become a StAR, you agree to speak on behalf of the student voice and the individuals that you represent. It takes a lot of guts speaking on behalf of your cohort in a lecture theatre full of people – especially when your feedback isn’t what the senior members of staff would ideally want to hear. As a StAR you really do have to be a selfless person with a backbone and the drive to get things changed by getting people’s voices heard; taking on the role and not fulfilling the criteria that you must meet as a StAR is not what the system is designed for.
The countless hours that I have put in have been for the greater good of the students in my group and my cohort, and as long as they can see that I work hard to get their views heard, I am truly content.