Victoria and Tasmania Schools’ Cluster Group
Posted: 10 August 2018
Six schools in Australia have formed a ‘Cluster Group’ to introduce 11 and 12-year-old students to Round Square using the format of a mini conference. The events provide a taste of what Round Square is all about, using one day programs that are packed with activities and engaging speakers to inspire this age group.
Author and position: Stuart Walls, Schools’ Support Director – Australasia and East Asia
Schools: Billanook College, Ballarat Grammar, Scotch Oakburn College, Ivanhoe Grammar School and Woodleigh School
At a Regional Conference for 10-12 year-old students at Scotch Oakburn College in Tasmania in 2015, discussion commenced about providing a platform for cost-effective and inclusive conferences in the local region. The formation of a cluster group was initiated to develop ongoing and more frequent opportunities to celebrate the Round Square IDEALS together.
Round Square representatives from these schools planned this concept using video conferencing. These cluster mini-conferences are aimed at 11-12 year-old students, Years 5 and 6 in Australia. The events provide a taste of what Round Square is all about, using one day programs that are packed with activities and engaging speakers to inspire this age group.
Ivanhoe Grammar School (Plenty Campus) hosted the first Cluster Mini-Conference in August 2016. These events celebrate the IDEALS, each of them focussing on one or two rather than trying to cover all of them in a one-day program. The Ivanhoe conference included an indigenous focus based around a presentation to students from Ian Hunter, a Wurundjeri Elder. The key ‘Spirit’ was Leadership.
Baraza Group discussions, led by older students, ensure that the Round Square structure is modelled for these younger participants. All students gain experience working with others in a respectful and democratic way and the older students are afforded genuine leadership opportunities.
Subsequent conferences at Billanook College, the Minimbah campus of Woodleigh School and Scotch Oakburn College have focussed on the IDEALS of Democracy, Environment and Adventure. The most recent event in Tasmania was held over three days, instead of one, as most delegates had to travel. This adventure-based experience was held at Scotch Oakburn’s outdoor campus and was scaffolded using the Discovery Framework. Two Cluster Conferences are held each year, one per semester.
Managing costs – The idea is that costs, apart from travel, are covered by the host school, and that each of the six schools hosts the mini-conferences in turn. Costs are kept to an absolute minimum which means that a much larger number of students from each school can take part in a Round Square event. The host school can involve as many Year 5 and 6 students as they like on the day and the visiting schools can bring up to 8 delegates.
Over the two years since the first event, 250 eleven to twelve-year-old students, from the six schools, have participated in the four mini conferences. This has inspired many of them to look at longer and more distant opportunities as they move into Middle and Senior school years.
Those involved would highly recommend this collaborative model to other clusters of Round Square schools around the world. Clusters can be based around any age group depending on which schools are in close enough proximity to each other to facilitate these events.
The fifth mini conference will be held in Ballarat in October of this year and will focus on Environmental Stewardship.
- Keep the focus simple – by not trying to do too much in one day. Choose one of the IDEALS as a theme for the day and arrange speakers, Baraza discussions and activities to link in to that IDEAL.
- Always use older students as Baraza leaders for the day – as would be the case with a longer conference. This is particularly effective with this younger age group who respond very well to the leadership of older teenagers.
- These events are far more effective if the leaders are well prepared – This can be achieved by focused leadership training in the lead up to the event.
- Use the Discovery Framework wherever possible – This enables the students and leaders to scaffold their thinking and reflect on their strengths and areas for growth.